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Food business inspections

Our food safety team is responsible for ensuring that food which is produced, prepared, distributed or sold in food premises in Guildford Borough is safe and fit to eat. Environmental health practitioners do this by providing advice to food businesses and by carrying out regular risk-based inspections of businesses to check that they are complying with food safety legislation.

The purpose of an inspection

Whilst the primary responsibility for identifying food hazards and controlling risks rests with food business operators, food hygiene inspections undertaken by our team of environmental health practitioners serve the following purposes:

  • To establish whether food is being handled and produced hygienically.

  • To establish whether food is, or will be safe to eat having regard to further processing.

  • To identify foreseeable incidences of food poisoning or injury as a consequence of consumption of contaminated food.

We have the main responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Food Safety Act 1990, and other relevant food safety legislation in all commercial food premises located within the borough.

Who will inspect your business?

Environmental health practitioners have the right to enter and inspect commercial food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and they will usually come without advance notice. Inspectors might come on a routine inspection, and how often this will be will depend upon the type of business and its previous record. Those premises in the highest risk category can expect a visit at least every 6 months, medium risk businesses 12-18 months and the lowest risk businesses may receive another form of contact, such as a self-assessment questionnaire.

What will the inspectors do when they visit?

The inspector will look at the general operation of the business, ensuring that potential food safety risks have been adequately identified and controlled in the business through an appropriate Food Safety Management System.

This will include checking the documentation/records, speaking to staff to confirm levels of food safety knowledge and checking that businesses are implementing effective food safety controls. Officers may also take readings of temperatures of delivered, stored and cooked food items.

We recognise that most businesses want to comply with the law and we will provide free advice and guidance to ensure food businesses and others meet their legal obligations without unnecessary expense. However inspectors do have powers that they can use when they think it necessary to do so, which include the following:

  • Take photographs and inspect records.

  • Write to you informally, asking you to put right any problems.

  • Serve a Hygiene Improvement Notice for issues of non-compliance with the law, which will also outline the things to be done in order to comply.

  • Detain or seize suspect foods.

  • Serve a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice that prohibits the use of premises or equipment. Note: this must be approved by a court.

  • In serious cases, recommend a prosecution.

What can you expect from the inspectors?

  • A courteous manner.

  • To be shown identification.

  • Feedback from any inspections, such as information about hazards which have been identified and guidance on what you must do to comply with the law.

  • To be given the reasons in writing for any action you are asked to take.

  • Where there is an apparent breach of the law, a statement of what that law is.

  • 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 can you do if you do not agree with the inspector's action?

If you do not agree with the action taken by an inspector, you should first contact the Head of Environmental Health and Licensing Services to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If you are still unhappy with the outcome, you may approach your local Councillor.

If you think that your Local Authority is applying the law in a different way from other authorities, you can seek advice from the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services website.

You have the right to appeal against a Hygiene Improvement Notice or refusal by a Local Authority to lift a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition order, however this must be carried out in a Magistrates Court.

What happens if my practices are consistently good, and the inspector is confident that they will remain good?

Ultimately, you will be inspected less frequently. Your high standards will be also recognised by your Food Hygiene Scheme rating.

Can inspectors take food samples?

Yes, inspectors do have the power to take food samples to check on the bacteriological condition of food or to identify any possible source of contamination. Further samples may be taken when unsatisfactory results are received. We may also take samples when investigating food complaints.

Guidance on the regulations

The  Food Standards Agency website contains further useful information on food safety.