|Inspection visit by EHO's|
The Food Safety Act and regulations made under it aim to make sure all food offered to the public is safe to eat and is properly described. In general Environmental Health Officers (District and Borough Councils) have responsibility for food safety and hygiene whilst Trading Standards Officers check on food composition and labelling.
This guidance describes:
∑ what to expect when your business is inspected under the act;
∑ what to do if you think the outcome of an inspection is wrong or not fair.
Who will inspect your business?
Environmental health officers and trading standards officers have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and they will usually come without advance notice. They carry out routine inspections and may also visit as a result of a complaint. How often routine inspections happen depends on the potential risk posed by the type of business and its previous record. Some premises may be inspected at least every six months, others much less often.
Inspectors will look at the way you operate your business to identify potential hazards and to make sure it complies with the law. They will discuss any problems with you and advise on possible solutions. They also have powers which they can use when they think it necessary to protect the public. These are explained below.
What are you entitled to expect from the inspectors?
∑ A courteous manner;
∑ To be shown identification;
∑ Feedback from any inspection, such as information about hazards which have been identified and guidance on how they could be avoided;
∑ A clear distinction between what the inspector is recommending you do because it is good practice and what you must do to comply with the law;
∑ To be given the reasons in writing for any action you are asked to take;
∑ Where there is an apparent breach of law, a statement of what that law is;
∑ Reasonable time to meet statutory requirements, except where there is an immediate risk to public health;
∑ To be told the procedures for appealing against local authority action.
What powers do inspectors have?
They can take samples and photographs, and inspect records. You must not obstruct inspectors as this constitutes an offence.
They may write to you informally asking you to put right any problems they find. Where breaches of the law are identified which must be put right they may serve you with an improvement notice.
They can purchase, detain or seize suspect foods.
In serious cases they may decide to recommend a prosecution: if the prosecution is successful, the Court may impose prohibitions on processes and the use of premises or equipment, fines and possibly imprisonment.
If there is an imminent health risk to consumers, inspectors can serve an emergency prohibition notice which forbids the use of the premises or equipment. Such a notice must be confirmed by the Court.
What can you do if you think the outcome is not fair ?
If you donít agree with action taken by the inspector, you should first contact your local authorityís head of environmental health or trading standards service, to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If disagreement remains after that you could approach your local councillor.
If you think your local authority is applying the law in a different way from other authorities you can seek advice from the Local Authorities Coordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards (LACORS) either through your trade association or your local authority.
You have a right to appeal to a Magistratesí Court against an improvement notice or a refusal by a local authority to lift an emergency prohibition order made earlier by the Court.
A Magistratesí Court must confirm the emergency closure of a business or the seizure of food. If Magistrates decide premises have been shut without proper reason, or food has been wrongly seized or detained you have a right to compensation.
Your local authority is ready to help if you need any advice on food safety or labelling;
trade associations and independent consultancy services can also help;
closer partnership between food businesses and local authorities means better public protection and fair trading.