Common food law breaches include lack of hand washing facilities and food hygiene training, inadequate pest control as well as failing to keep premises and equipment clean.
When an enforcement officer visits they have the right to enter at any reasonable time and without notice. There are two main purposes to visiting:
- To identify the risks associated with your business and determine whether you have identified the risks and have adequate controls in place
- To identify where you may be contravening (not meeting) the general food legislation and seek to correct this.
How often the EHO carries out an inspection will vary according to the type and size of the business, nature of the food and the degree of food handling. Your business will be assessed on the three main areas: food hygiene practices and procedures, structure and cleanliness, confidence in management. How well you meet the requirements will determine your food rating. Before they leave, they should run through their findings and leave you with a hand written report with an outline of what, if any, further action is to be taken. The points raised will either be recommendations of good practice or legal requirements. Any points that are legal requirements will be given a time scale as to when they need to be completed. E.g immediately, one week, two weeks etc. This is known as informal action where the enforcement officer is confident that you will carry out the work.
A formal letter will follow by post which will include confirmation of your food rating along with your sticker which you can display to your customers.
Formal action may follow if you are not complying with the legislation in areas that are more serious and if not put right could lead to food becoming contaminated or an outbreak food poisoning. A hygiene improvement notice is served on you, the business operator, and you will have at least 14 days to put things right i.e: for poor structure that cannot be cleaned, cracked wall tiles or damaged hand wash basin for example. Or perhaps staff need food hygiene training or you have not got a documented food safety management system in place.
Food may be detained or seized if it is unfit and likely to cause food poisoning or contaminated with rat or mouse droppings for example. This may be used as evidence against you in Court.
A hygiene emergency prohibition notice will be served if there is an imminent risk to health which requires the premises to be closed (if there is a massive pest infestation, sewage/flooding due to blocked drains) or a process stopped ( the sous vide method of cooking not achieving sufficient time/temperature combinations) or prohibits the use of a piece of equipment ( dual use of complex equipment such as a vacuum packaging machine) for example.
A formal caution may be given where an offence exists but it is not in the public interest to prosecute through the courts.
Prosecution in a court of law either in a Magistrate court or Crown court can follow. Food Sentencing guidelines are used to help the courts decide what fines are proportionate and fair. They look at how culpable the organisation or individual is as well as the harm suffered. Fines are unlimited and can amount to thousands of pounds and/or a prison sentence!!
The services of Percipio are invaluable at helping you meet the requirements from training needs to a one off audit to see if you meet the five rating standard. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org