Legislation aims to protect consumers from illness and injury with the intention of ensuring that food is wholesome and fit to eat. Businesses are legally required to provide certain facilities at places of work (i.e. wash hand basins, sinks etc.) in order to facilitate food safety. They also have a duty to ensure that all people engaged in the handling, preparation and sale of foods are properly instructed/trained and supervised appropriately for the work they do.
Businesses are legally obliged to analyse food safety hazards and take steps to control them. They must keep a constant check on the effectiveness of controls by routine monitoring, and must record, in writing, the results obtained (e.g. refrigeration temperature values).
Who will inspect your business and why?
Local Authorities have a statutory duty to inspect food premises in order to ensure compliance with food safety legislation.
Authorised Officers have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours, this may include visits in the early morning or during the evening, depending upon trading patterns. Routine inspections are usually made without prior notice and the frequency of routine visits is determined by assessing the potential risk posed by the business. High risk premises may expect a visit every six months, others less often. Visits may also be made as a result of a complaint.
The Officer will look at the way the business is operated to identify possible hazards and to ensure compliance with statutory requirements. They will discuss any problems identified and advise on possible solutions, they also have enforcement powers to use in order to protect the public.
What you are entitled to expect from the Officer:
- A courteous manner
- To be shown identification
- Feedback from the inspection e.g. information on food safety hazards identified during the visit and advice on how to control them
- A clear distinction between what are legal requirements and recommendations/good practice
- A written summary of the actions required – this may be in the form of a report of inspection or a letter and will give details of the regulation contravened and an indication of the timescale for completion of the works required
What powers do Officers have?
- They can take samples and photographs, and can inspect records
- They may write a letter or report requesting that works be done or faults rectified
- They may serve Improvement Notices that require works to be done
- Where they consider that an imminent risk to the health of consumers exists they may serve. Prohibition Notices which forbid the use of premises, equipment or processes
- In the most serious of cases they may decide to recommend prosecution
You must not obstruct Officers in the performance of their duties.
What to do if you think that the outcome is unfair
If you do not agree with the course of action taken by the Officer you should firstly contact their Manager to see if the issue can be resolved informally. If you are not satisfied:
- You could follow the Council's ‘Comments, Compliments, Complaints’ procedure.
- You could contact your Ward Councillor.
- You could also appeal to the Food Standards Agency Independent Business Appeals Panel.
- You have a right to appeal to Stevenage Magistrates’ Court, sited at: The Court House, Danesgate, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 1XH. They can be written to at: Stevenage Magistrates' Court, C/O Luton Magistrates' Court, Stuart Street, Luton, Bedfordshire LU1 5BL.