Council Services

Council Services

Inspections, Food Law and requirements for premises

The purpose of a food hygiene inspection is to ensure that food sold to the public is safe to consume. There are approximately 500 food businesses within the Borough and these will be visited on a rotating basis, depending on the rate risk. Additionally Food Safety Officers will visit many premises when following up complaints, and will visit any new premises that open in the Borough.  


Food Safety Officers will not only ensure that the structure, fittings and operators in food businesses do not contaminate foodstuffs, but will also assess the risks involved in storing, preparing and producing food.  The most common reasons for food poisoning occurring is food being prepared too far in advance and being left at room temperature for too long or cross contamination. 


Where there is an imminent risk to the public’s health, Officers can issue Emergency Prohibition Notices to prevent food businesses operating until such times as they are considered safe.


Where an imminent risk does not exist, but there are still problems to resolve the Officer may issue Hygiene Improvement Notices which detail the works that need to be carried out and provide a timescale for compliance.  Failure to comply with these notices will leave the business operator liable to prosecution at the Magistrates’ Court.


How often do premises get inspected?

Food inspections are determined based on a risk rating done at the last inspection.  It could be as frequent as every 6 months for higher risk premises, to every 3 years for those premises rated as low risk.  The inspector will provide a risk rating form after each inspection which will indicate the applicable rating for the business.


Are inspections announced?

Inspectors have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and will usually come without notice.


The general principle about pre-notification of inspections is set out in European Regulation 882/2004 which states in Article 3(2) that “official controls shall be carried out without prior warning, except in cases such as audits where prior notification of the feed or food business operator is necessary”.  Prior notice of an inspection would generally only be given therefore where inspectors intended to carry out an audit and needed to ensure that certain documentation, records and/or staff was available. 


What will I get assessed on?


The inspection may vary depending on the type of business you operate however the main criteria you will be assessed on will be:

  • The type of food you produce
  • The number of consumers affected
  • Food hygiene practices
  • The standard of structure and cleaning in the premises
  • Confidence in management – including training, record keeping and HACCP

General Food Hygiene rules for food premises: 

Regulation (EC) 852/2004 lays down general rules of food hygiene for all food business operators and sets down standards for structure, maintenance, cleanliness and food handling practices. It states that the primary responsibility for food safety rests with the food business operator.


Before implementing food safety procedures, your business must meet the minimum standard set by food hygiene rules. The rules you must follow are found in the chapters of the above Regulation and are summarised below:


1.        General requirements for food premises

2.        Specific requirements for rooms where food is prepared, processed or cooked

3.        Requirements for mobile businesses, food businesses run from domestic premises and vending machines

4.        Transport

5.        Equipment

6.        Food waste 

7.        Water supplies

8.        Personal hygiene

9.        Looking after food

10.     Wrapping and packaging

11.     Heat processing of food

12.     Training


Note: Most of the chapters apply to all premises, though the heading clarifies this.  Chapter III applies only to temporary units such as market stalls


For details of the requirements under each of these Chapters please see this summary.


Documented Food Safety Management System

In addition Article 5 of the Regulation requires food business operators to implement and maintain permanent procedures based on HACCP principles. This means that procedures must be in place to ensure that food is produced safely and necessary documents and records are established.  HACCP is discussed here