Food safety - inspections
The Council carries out regular checks on all food premises to ensure the public is protected and that high standards are maintained.
Our aim is to ensure that food is safe to eat, correctly labelled and accurately advertised, by regularly inspecting food and food premises. To do this we have a team of authorised officers who are responsible for the regular, unannounced inspection of all food premises within the borough.
Where legal requirements are not being met, action is taken to secure improvements necessary to comply with legal duties. In addition officers give advice and guidance on good practice and provide regular food hygiene training courses for food handlers.
The Food Safety Team is in turn subject to inspection by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to ensure that it is fulfilling its duties.
The Food Safety Service Delivery Plan is incorporated within the Community Safety Service Delivery Plan which includes Health & Safety and Trading Standards and enforcement services. The plan also contains the Annual Report for Food Safety. The most current service delivery plan is available to download as a PDF on the right.
For more food safety information please use the food safety for businesses and consumers links in the right hand menu.
Inspection of food businesses
Visits to premises are carried out, as far as possible, without prior notification and are priority programmed according to their degree of potential risk. This ensures that higher risk premises are visited more frequently than those in lower risk categories.
During an inspection, Officers will want to reassure themselves that potential food safety risks have been identified by the business, and that there are adequate controls in place to prevent any problems. They will also look at the training of managers and food handlers to ensure that it is suitable, and they will check that the condition of the premises and equipment is satisfactory.
Where practices or conditions are not satisfactory, attempts will be made to resolve the situation by informal means, but where poor conditions persist, or where there is a risk to public health it may be necessary to resort to formal action. This could involve either the service of legal notices, prosecution, or in extreme cases closure of the business.
Purpose of food hygiene inspections
The responsibility for controlling food safety lies with the proprietor of that business. Environmental Health Officers and Food Safety Officers inspect all types of food business to:
- Check to ensure food is being handled and produced hygienically
- Check that food is safe to eat
- Identify any reasonably foreseeable risks to food safety which may cause food poisoning or injury to the consumer
The objectives of the inspection include:
- Determination of the business activity, and the law that applies to that business
- Recording information from observations and discussions with staff
- Identifying potential hazards, and risks to the health of the public
- Checking the efficiency of food safety controls
- Assessment of the food safety management systems in place
- Identifying contraventions of food safety legislation
- Consideration of enforcement action to ensure food businesses comply with the law
The Local Authority is required to maintain a register of all food businesses in its area, and implement a programme to ensure that all food businesses are inspected regularly.
Frequency of Inspections
The frequency of inspections of food premises is based upon risk assessment. Some food premises and businesses will present a higher risk to the consumer than others. This is dependent upon a number of factors such as the type of food business, the nature of the food, the degree of handling and the size of the business. Those premises posing a higher risk to the consumer should be inspected more frequently than those premises with a lower risk.
Food premises are inspected within the range of at least every 6 months (e.g. food manufacturers) to at least every 5 years (e.g. farm shops).
Please note that these are only minimum inspection frequencies and local authorities may carry out more frequent inspections where they consider this appropriate.
The frequency of these will inspections vary depending on risk. The scoring system and risk ratings are determined using a national system established by the Food Standards Agency.
Food businesses are inspected and scored on a number of criteria including those directly in the control of the food business operator:
- Food hygiene and safety procedures - How the food is handled including temperature control
- Structure - The condition of the structure, cleanliness, layout of the premises, lighting and ventilation
- Confidence in Management - The food business operator's history of compliance with food hygiene law and evidence of a food safety management system
Other risk factors such as catering for vulnerable groups (the elderly, ill or under 5's), vacuum packing foods, and the number of consumers who could be effected are also considered.
An inspection priority will be given to a business as follows:
24 Monthly - may also be suitable for an alternative intervention strategy
Need not be included in the planned inspection programme, but must be subject to an alternative intervention strategy at least once in every 3 years.
Some food businesses e.g. newsagents can present a very low food safety risk and may be sent a self assessment questionnaire to enable the Council to target resources appropriately.
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 the public have the right to request information on inspections of all food premises within Bexley and have access to any reports that are produced, subject to certain legal exemptions.
Authorised Officers (Environmental Health Officers and Food Safety Officers) have the authority to enter food premises at all reasonable hours and as a general rule without prior notice.
The officer should identify him/herself upon entering the premises (all officers carry photographic identification) and the reason for the visit. i.e. to carry out a routine food hygiene inspection, in response to a food complaint or for sampling purposes.
In order to ascertain specific information relating to the food businesses operations, the officer will request to see a person in authority (the manager/proprietor of the business) and certainly the person who is in charge of food preparation activities (the chef/catering manager).
Under the Food Safety Act, it is an offence to obstruct an officer in the pursuit of his/her duties. Obstruction may be physical in nature, the refusal to disclose information or giving false information. Persons who obstruct authorised officers may be subject to a fine and/or imprisonment.
The officer will wear a clean white coat and appropriate head protection, during the course of the inspection.
In addition to carrying out a thorough inspection of the structure of the food premises (including equipment used in food preparation) and discussing food safety practices and procedures, the officer will also expect to examine various records in relation to adequacy of training of staff, temperature monitoring of frozen, chilled, cooked and re-heated foodstuffs, cleaning schedules and pest control records, as appropriate. The examination of these records will allow the officer to make an assessment of the adequacy of the systems already in place and to offer advice on any changes deemed necessary.
The Inspection Report
Following the inspection, the officer will compile a report to the proprietor of the food business, detailing any matters which were apparent at the time of the inspection and which require attention.
The report will specify those statutory requirements that are not being complied with and what remedial action must be taken to comply with the law. In addition, advice will be given on good practice.
In order to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements of food safety legislation, authorised officers can serve a number of different notices on the proprietor of a food business. The type of notice served will depend on the risk of injury to health, the size and nature of the business, willingness of the proprietor to comply and previous history of the business. Notices more commonly used include:
1. "Hygiene Improvement Notice".
An Authorised Officer can serve a hygiene improvement notice where he/she has reasonable grounds for believing that the proprietor of a food business is failing to comply with the regulations. This notice will specify the contravention, the appropriate remedy and a time period within which to comply, which is usually agreed with a company representative. The notice also includes details if you wish to appeal.
Failure to comply with a Hygiene Improvement Notice is an offence which can lead to a fine or imprisonment.
2. Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices and Hygiene Prohibition Orders.
If an Authorised Officer believes that there is an "imminent risk of injury to health" because of the condition of a piece of equipment, a handling process or the premises as whole, he/she may serve a hygiene emergency prohibition notice. This has the effect of prohibiting the continued use of the equipment or premises or a particular handling process. The officer must then apply to the magistrates' court within three days for a hygiene emergency prohibition order. If the court makes a hygiene emergency prohibition order, this must be displayed on the premises so that the public can easily read it. The hygiene prohibition order can only be removed once an Authorised Officer has re-inspected the premises or process and has certified that the defects have been remedied.
An order can also be applied by the court to the manager or proprietor of a food business which would prohibit that individual from working or participating in the management of any food business. The order can only be lifted by the court.
- Food Safety - Public Protection Full details for Food Safety - Public Protection