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EHO Food Inspection Basics

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When An Inspector Calls…

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) work for local authorities and  advise on the management of food safety including hygiene, kitchen design, pest control and waste disposal. EHOs are also responsible for the control of pollution and other environmental nuisances. Their duties include the inspection of food premises, as well as enforcing the provisions of the UK laws and the EU food hygiene legislation. They also investigate complaints about food and collaborate with the local Health Protection Unit in the investigation of outbreaks, particularly of food- or water-borne illness.

Inspections

When inspectors visit, they must follow the Food Standards Agency’s Framework Agreement on local authority food law enforcement and the Food Law Code of Practice. Food Business Operations (FBOs) can expect the inspectors to show identification when they arrive and be polite throughout the visit. They should always give feedback on an inspection. This means they will tell the FBO about any problems they have identified and advise about how they can be avoided. If an inspector advises you to do something, they must tell you whether you need to do it to comply with the law or whether it is good practice (NB the term ‘best practice’ is now preferred by people who worry about such things). If you are asked to take any action as a result of the inspection, you must be given the reasons in writing. If the inspectors decide that you are breaking a law, they must say what that law is. The inspectors should give a reasonable amount of time to make changes, except where there is an immediate risk to public health. They must also  tell you how they can appeal against their actions.
Enforcement

When they think it is necessary, inspectors can take ‘enforcement action’, to protect the public. For example, they can:
Inspect records
Take samples and photographs of food
Write to the FBO informally, asking them to put right any problems
Detain or seize suspect foods
 
HEPNs, RANs and Other Stuff You Don’t Want

You can also be served with various  notices if youget it wrong. Which is fair enough because with something like E. coli O157 you could kill a customer if you get it wrong. But unless your kitchen is an absolute toilet and really don’t give a toss they’ll generally work with you. If they need to get your attention there are three main types of notice:
Hygiene Improvement Notice or Food Labelling Improvement Notice – sets out certain things that must happen to comply, if the business is breaking the law
Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice– forbids the use of certain processes, premises or equipment and must be confirmed by a court
Remedial Action Notice – forbids the use of certain processes, premises or equipment, or imposes conditions on how a process is carried out. This is similar to a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice but it does not need to be confirmed by a court: this type of notice applies to approved establishments only in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and can be used for any food establishment in Scotland.)
It is a criminal offence not to comply with a notice once served. In serious cases inspectors can also recommend a prosecution. If a prosecution is successful, the court may forbid use of certain processes, premises or equipment, or individuals could be banned from managing a food business. Prosecution could also lead to a fine or imprisonment.

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