Inspecting Food Premises

All food premises are required to be registered with the Local Authority and are inspected by our officers to make sure that the food they make and sell is safe.

What can officers do?

The Officers have the right to enter and inspect premises at all reasonable hours - normal opening hours for the food business.  In the case of domestic premises, 24 hours notice will be given. Visits are generally made without any warning so that the Officers can get a true picture of how the business usually operates. An officer may visit alone or may be accompanied by another officer.

When they visit they can:

  • take samples,
  • take photographs
  • inspect and make copies of records
  • remove any food that they suspect to be unsafe or prohibit its use
  • prohibit the use of processes, equipment or even the whole premises.

Although these powers are available, an officer will always initially work with businesses to achieve good standards of hygiene provided the safety of the public is not put at risk.

During the inspection

The Inspecting Officer will introduce himself, produce identification and explain why the inspection is being made.  This could be due to a complaint or it could be just a routine inspection.

The Officer will usually ask to speak with the food business operator, but if he is not available, whoever is responsible for food preparation at the time.  During the visit, the Officers may do the following:

  • look at the condition and layout of all of the food rooms,
  • check the temperature of foods,
  • watch how food is prepared,
  • ask questions of staff or the food business operator relating to food handling practices and procedures.

The Officers will also want to check paperwork such as:

  • hazard analysis documents (for example Safter Food Better Business (SFBB))
  • suppliers invoices
  • temperature records
  • cleaning schedules
  • refuse contracts
  • pest control records

After the inspection

Once the Officer has completed the inspection, he will discuss the findings of the inspection with a suitably responsible person.

The Officer will make clear which issues are contraventions (these must be sorted out) and which are recommendations (these are suggestions for good hygiene practice).

He will agree time scales within which the work should be completed. 

He will leave a summary report at the time of the inspection and a more comprehensive report will be sent later detailing all legal requirements and recommendations for good practice.

Sometimes it may be necessary to serve legal notices for significant contraventions or imminent risks to health.  These might be left following the visit or they may be sent at a later date. Failure to comply with the notice may result in more formal action such as prosecution.  Visit our Enforcement page using the link below for further information about enforcement.

A follow up visit may be necessary to check that any matters requiring attention have been suitably resolved.  The food business operator should always contact the inspecting Officer before the time elapses if he feels the work cannot be completed within the time period.

All documentation arising from the inspection will be kept in the premises file and will be available for inspection by the public.

The frequency of inspections

The frequency of routine inspections depends on the potential risk posed by the type of business and its previous record.  Inspection intervals can be every six months (highest risk), or every 1, 2 or 3 years for lower risk businesses.  Some low risk businesses may receive a self assessment questionnaire rather than a visit.

Sometimes inspections are carried out to investigate a complaint. Revisits may be necessary to check the completion of works and give advice.

For further information or advice relating to food safety inspections, please contact us using the contact information opposite.