What to Expect From an Environmental Health Visit
This article is to help businesses briefly gain some understanding about what to expect when an Environmental Health Officer visits your food premises. All food businesses must be registered with the local authority by law, failure to do so could mean that you end up with a fine and/or imprisonment for up to two years. Registration of a food business must be at least 28 days before it opens or food operations commence.
1. Will I be informed of their visit?
Typically, a visit from the local Environmental Health Department will be unannounced. They come unannounced to see the actual running of the business on a typical day. They have the right to visit your business at any reasonable time. The reason behind their visit is either to carry out a routine inspection of your premises, take samples of certain food products as part of a wider sampling strategy or in response to a complaint. The Environmental Health Officer should explain the purpose of their visit defining if they have had a complaint or whether it is a routine visit.
2. How often do I get inspected?
There is no definitive answer to this question as the frequency of the inspection will be based on a few factors. After each inspection, the Environmental Health Officer will score the business depending on what they have identified from their visit. If they identified some contraventions of the law and those contraventions posed a significant risk to food safety, the score that they calculate based on the information would determine the planned inspection. In this scenario, a business may be inspected every 6 months.
3. What should I expect when they visit?
When the Environmental Health Officer arrives they should show you their identification and greet you in a courteous manner. They will carry out a visual inspection of your premises and look at your Food Safety Management System. Wirehouse can assist you with the development of a Food Safety Management System. Each Local Authority is different and there is no set method of how they would carry out their inspection.
When the Environmental Health Officer is carrying out their inspection they will be looking at your Food Safety and Hygiene Procedures including:
- Looking at how you store, cook, reheat, and chill foods.
- They will also look at how you are managing your allergens by providing clear written information to your staff and to the customer/resident. They will want to see how you manage allergens on the premises and whether this is by having separate areas and/or separate utensils to prevent exposing consumers; for example from a nut allergy. According to the FSA, “in the UK about ten people die every year from food induced anaphylaxis”.
- Your staff’s personal hygiene ensuring that they are washing their hands in the designated hand wash basin with hot water along with paper towel and antibacterial hand wash provided.
- They will also look at the structure of the premises ensuring it is clean and that surfaces can be easily cleaned, that any pests cannot access food areas and that the lighting, layout and ventilation is reasonable.
- Lastly, they will look at how the business ensures that they are only serving safe food for consumers. They will do this by speaking to the kitchen staff, looking at records and the Food Safety Management System. They will want to see that your staff have received the appropriate food training, Wirehouse offer an E-learning course: Level 2 Food Hygiene.
They will then de-brief you about what they have found on the visit and will give you your Food Hygiene Rating Score.
If you would like some advice relating to your food business please contact Wirehouse Employer Services and we will be happy to help. A visit from the local Environmental Health Department does not have to be frightening or costly experience.
By Angela Laycock – Wirehouse H&S Advisor