What to expect from inspection

Environmental Health Officers from the council inspect all food businesses in the borough.

We have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. We do not have to make any appointment and will usually visit without advance notice. However, we will try to be considerate about when we come to avoid visiting you during particularly busy periods where possible.

We visit when investigating complaints and also in order to carry out routine inspections. The frequency of our inspections depend 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.

We will look at the way you operate your business to identify potential hazards and to make sure it complies with the law. In most cases we will discuss any problems with you and advise on possible solutions verbally and in writing. We also have powers which we can use when we think it necessary to protect the public.

When will I be inspected and what will be checked?

You should receive your first inspection within six months of opening.

The inspection is an opportunity to check structural standards, check safety standards and talk to you about how you will manage food safety.

Once you have had your primary inspection we will give you a score in accordance with guidance laid down in the Food Law Code of Practice.

This gives us a risk rating that is inputted to our database, the subsequent frequency of inspection is then based on the perceived level of risk. You will also receive a star rating which will be published on www.ratemyplace.org.uk and you will receive a certificate to display.

What are you entitled to expect from us?

  • a courteous manner;
  • to be shown identification;
  • feedback from any inspection, such as information about hazards which have been identified and guidance on what you must to do to comply with the law;
  • to be given the reasons in writing for any action we ask you to take;
  • 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 we have?

We can take samples and photographs, and inspect records. You must not obstruct inspectors.

In most cases we will write to you informally asking you to put right any problems we find. Where breaches of the law are identified which must be put right we may serve you with an improvement notice. This will specify what is wrong and what you have to do and will give you a reasonable timescale to make the improvements.

We can detain or seize suspect food. This has to taken to a Magistrates Court who will decide whether it can be sold or not.

Rarely, in very serious cases, we may decide to recommend a prosecution: If the prosecution is successful the council 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, we can serve an emergency prohibition notice which forbids the use of the premises, process or equipment. Such a notice must be confirmed by the Court.

What if you disagree with us?

If you don't agree with the action taken, you should first contact the Senior Environmental Health Officer on 01283 508578 to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If disagreement remains after that you could approach your local Councillor.

If you think the council is applying the law in a different way from other authorities you can seek advice from Local Government Regulation or the Local Better Regulation Office.

You have a right of appeal to a Magistrates' Court against an improvement notice or a refusal by a Local Authority to lift an emergency prohibition order made earlier by the Court.

A Magistrates' 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.