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 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 identify themselves (all Cheshire East Council Officers carry photographic 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 they are not available, whoever is responsible for food preparation at the time. During the visit, the Officer(s) 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 Safer Food Better Business (SFBB)
- staff training records
- suppliers invoices
- temperature records
- cleaning schedules
- refuse contracts
- pest control records
After the inspection
Once the Officer has completed the inspection, they 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).
Time scales within which the work should be completed will be discussed and a summary report will be left at the time of the inspection. If necessary a more comprehensive report letter 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 a notice may result in more formal action such as prosecution.
See the regulatory services and health enforcement policy for further information.
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 they feel 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 if requested.
The frequency of inspections
The frequency of routine inspections depends on the potential risk posed by the type of business as well as its previous record of compliance. 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.
Contact us for further information or advice relating to food safety inspections.
Page last reviewed: 08 February 2023
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