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Food Hygiene Inspection Checklist and EHO visit tips

A food hygiene inspection from the EHO to inspect your food and drink business doesn’t have to be daunting.

The more comfortable you are with the scheme, the better the impression you will make with the Environmental Health Officer (EHO). Learn about the rating below, follow our EHO visit tips and download our food safety checklist to best prepare yourself for your next food hygiene inspection visit.

What is the Food Hygiene Rating?

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities. It is used to assess the level of food safety compliance within businesses where food is supplied, sold or consumed. Its aim is to improve overall food hygiene standards for consumers and to provide enough information so that they can make an informed decision on where to eat and drink.

For the location authority to monitor businesses in their area, all food and drink businesses must register with their local authority environmental health department. Food Hygiene ratings are then provided to businesses based on the findings of a food safety inspection by the local authority.

How food hygiene inspections work

The inspection assesses how your business is performing and operating when compared to Food Safety Regulations and best practices. This means that ratings are a snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection.

EHO will inspect these three areas:

Food hygiene – How hygienically the food is handled, how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored.

Venue structureThe physical condition of the business including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control and facilities

Management – How the business manages ways of keeping food safe, looking at processes, training and other systems to ensure good hygiene is maintained. The officer can then assess the level of confidence in standards being maintained in the future

How Food Hygiene Ratings are decided

The rating is based on individual elements. The more points given due to breach of food safety legislation, the lower the overall food safety rating will be.

5 hygiene standards are very good. Total Score 0-15. No individual score greater than 5

4 hygiene standards are good. Total Score 20. No individual score greater than 10

3 hygiene standards are generally satisfactory. Total Score 25-30. No individual score greater than 10

2 some improvement is necessary. Total Score 35-40. No individual score greater than 15

1 major improvement is necessary. Total Score 45-50. No individual score greater than 20

Tips for during a visit

Stay calm

There is misconception of an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) visit, that they are there to ‘catch you out’ and throw a spanner in the works or to fine you to create funds for the local authority. This is untrue. EHO visits are generally very useful for your business and will help you to understand where you can improve. 

Be hospitable

Welcome the EHO with a positive, friendly attitude just as you would with the first customer of the day. First impressions are a huge part of any interaction and the EHO is looking for confidence in your business as soon as the enter. Ask politely to see their ID and ask them to sign into the visitor section in your Management Diary.

Be organised

Present your Management Diary confidently and let the EHO know that your food safety monitoring sheets are included within it. The EHO may decide to look at your Diary straight away or later on, but either way, they will be impressed that you have your system available so quickly.

Lead by example

Ensure that the person who accompanies the EHO around the venue is a focussed and conscientious person who will do the basics well. The EHO will be looking at ‘simple’ things such as correct hand washing. Always make the most senior person available to accompany to the EHO.  

Involve the team

It can be a daunting for your team when they see an EHO arrive. Once the EHO has been welcomed, take a moment to introduce them to your colleagues. This will help settle any nerves in the team. During the visit, involve your colleagues wherever you can by inviting them to contribute information to the EHO.

Ask questions

Pay close attention to feedback provided throughout the visit. Politely ask for clarification whether the recommendation is good practice or if it is something you must do to comply with UK Food Laws. Ask for more feedback on areas which you could improve and areas you’re doing well.

Take notes

Make notes as you accompany the EHO on the visit. There can be a lot of information to take in, so it’s very important you have a way of remembering accurately what occurred. Should you need to contest anything later, detailed notes will be your best friend the only way you will know what occurred.

Summarise

At the end of the visit, refer to your notes and tell the EHO exactly what you plan to do and when you plan to do it. By this time you should have had some really useful feedback the EHO and made notes about it so take the opportunity to summarise those before they leave. This will show that you are serious.

An enforcement officer has the authority to

EHO powers during a visit

  • Entry to premises at any reasonable time
  • Seizure of foods for laboratory analysis
  • Seizure of documentation for further analysis
  • Question staff and take statements
  • Swab surfaces and equipment
  • Take photographs as evidence of non-compliance

EHO powers following a visit

  • Issue a notice that allows the business to continue operating on the proviso that certain improvements are made within a certain time frame
  • Issue a notice to stop the business from trading
  • Issue a notice to stop a process or an item of equipment being used
  • Provide verbal advice and guidance

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