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Everything You Need To Know About An Environment Health Officer (EHO)

Hospitality businesses have a responsibility to protect their guests from harm. One of the biggest risks to customers is poor food safety practices and this is the very thing which Environmental Health Officers work to reduce.

As a business owner, you do your very best to ensure a safe environment for your customers. You will implement a food safety management system which aims to ensure the health and safety of your guests but as you will recognise in hospitality, things can go wrong, so it’s important to have a third-party assessment in place working on behalf of the local authority to protect the public.

The last thing you want in your business, is a food poisoning incident or another type of accident, so it’s important to pro-actively engage with a public health inspector in order to minimise that risk.

 

What does an environmental health officer do?

Environmental Health Officers are employed by local authorities and their job is to implement the food hygiene rating scheme, which is turn has been developed by the Food Standards Agency. Government agencies such as this often use devolved power to enforce regulations such as environmental protection regulations and in this case, central government use local authorities to ensure public health.

The food hygiene rating scheme is a system in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland which is used to rate the hygiene standards of food businesses. The scheme assesses food businesses against food safety law and best food safety practices and provides a score from 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest standard.

Environmental Health Officers, as enforcers of the scheme exist to improve public health by carrying out an environmental health officer visit and providing advice to a food business on how health risks to the public can be reduced in a food premises.

An EHO is an environmental health technician who has taken several training courses and worked through many years of continuing professional development in order to operate as public health inspectors. Although EHO’s usually have many years of experience, local authorities do also hire for entry-level positions for those who wish to take a degree apprenticeship or a postgraduate course in environmental health.

This experience means that Environmental Health Officers, are qualified as a competent public health inspector and work work solely to improve environmental health/public health.

There are many other tasks carried out by Environmental Health Officers (such as delivering educational talks) but as discussed, the most important job is to inspect food premises for non-compliance with government regulations and poor food safety management.

While inspecting businesses, Environmental Health Officers use the format laid out by the Food Standards Agency which assess three areas:

Food hygiene

Venue structure

Management

 

Read about food safety management systems.

Read about HACCP.

Read about daily checklists and monitoring.

 

An environmental health officer has the ability to do the following:

Environmental Health Officers have the power or right of entry. This means that if they require entry to carry out an inspection, you must allow them entry to all areas of your premises.

Whilst on the premises, Environmental Health Officers have the right to take photographic and video evidence in order to compile reports at a later date. This evidence can and will also be used as evidence in any future court procedures.

A public health officer may also take samples of food, surfaces and equipment for testing at a later date. This is usually done when considering infectious disease suspicion but can be done at any time.

An Environmental Health Officer may remove any paperwork in order to evaluate later, this includes your food safety management system or paperwork.

Finally an Environmental Health Officer may also speak to any staff member in order to build a clearer understanding of how the business operates and if it is conducting food safety principles effectively.

 

Quick break – download our free guide to nail your next EHO inspection. This is everything you need to know to achieve a five star rating.

Food Hygiene Ratings

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What powers do environmental health officers not have

An Environmental Health Officer does not have the power to arrest anybody, in any circumstance. n Environmental Health Officer can recommend you be prosecuted if a breach of law is serious enough, however, they cannot arrest you.

In addition, there are certain things which An Environmental Health Officer should do.

 

When do EHOs have the right of entry?

An Environmental Health Officer has the right to enter your premises at all reasonable hours. The Environmental Health Officer does not need to give you prior notice, unless your business runs from your home, in which case you should be given 24 hours’ notice.

If the Environmental Health Officer is refused entry to the premises, has a reason to believe they will be refused entry, or if premises are closed, they can apply for a warrant through a magistrate and enter by using reasonable force.

 

Which legal notices can be served by an environmental health officer?

This type of notice is issued when an Environmental Health Officer demands a series of improvements are made to improve hygiene.

Legal notices if this type mean that EHO intend to apply to magistrates to stop your business from trading. If the Order is approved by the magistrate, your food business cannot operate until the Environmental Health Officer considers the risk mitigated.

A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice is used for situations for breaches of food safety law which bring imminent risk of ill health to the public. This would include infectious disease notifications and sever pest ingress.

Improper practices to label food can lead to legal notices of this type. If you are not complying with correct allergen labelling you may be prosecuted and and and this notice will form part of the process.

 

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