It is against the law to supply food which is unsafe or harmful to human health. Our environmental health inspectors regularly inspect food businesses to make sure that food is handled and produced hygienically. We will also investigate if a customer complains about a business to us.
The Food Standards Agency has lots of information and guidance for businesses to help provide safer food for customers.
When do inspections happen?
Our officers do not have to make an appointment and they will usually come without advance notice. They will show you identification and will request to see a person in authority such as the manager.
It is against the law to obstruct an officer. Obstruction includes physically not allowing them onto the premises, refusing to answer questions or giving false information. If you obstruct an authorised officer you can be fined or given a prison sentence.
Inspection intervals range from every 6 months to every 5 years depending on the risk. Restaurants are higher risk than shops selling packaged food. Businesses with previous poor inspections are more likely to be identified as high risk.
What to expect from an inspection
Our officers will show you their ID. You will get information on any issues identified during the visit, advice on how to comply with legal requirements and the timescale for compliance.
There will be a clear distinction between what are legal requirements and advice/recommendations.
You will be sent a written summary of actions required. It will give details of the regulations contravened and an indication of the timescale for completion of the work required.
What happens during the inspection?
Our inspectors will check that:
- there are controls in place to ensure food safety and potential food safety risks have been identified
- staff have suitable up-to-date training, the condition of the premises and equipment is satisfactory and food has been legally imported and is traceable
- measures are in place to control pests
They will look at food standards issues including allergens, correct labelling, use-by and best before dates. They may also take food samples, send them for testing to see if the ingredients match the label check if they contain any non-permitted additives, or if they contain dangerous bacteria or contaminants.
You will get a written summary of the actions you need to take to comply with the legal requirements and the timescale for compliance.
Enforcement and compliance
We can serve a number of different notices to make sure businesses comply with legislation.
Hygiene improvement notices
This notice will tell you which regulation you have broken, how to fix it and how long you have to comply.
If you do not comply then you may be prosecuted and fined or imprisoned. If you cannot comply within the set time period you should contact us immediately.
Emergency prohibition notices
An emergency prohibition notice can lead to a court order which can ban businesses from:
- using the entire premises
- using a piece of equipment
- using a specific process
This is done if the officer believes there is an imminent risk of injury to health. If the court makes an emergency prohibition order, this must be publicly displayed on the premises. The prohibition order can only be removed once we are happy that the problems have been fixed.
A prohibition order is a court order which bans a person from working in or managing a food business. The order can only be lifted by the court.