Food inspections are carried out in Corby by the Health Protection Team. The team consists of a mix of Environmental Health Officers and Food Safety Officers, who cover all of the food premises in the Corby Borough Council area.
Why are food businesses inspected?
There are a number of reasons:
- to identify any hazards and to assess any public health risks arising from the food business
- to assess management controls of food production and their effectiveness
- to identify if legislation is not being followed
- to offer advice and guidance on good hygiene practices
How often will my premises be inspected?
This will depend on the risk rating given to the premises. The risk rating is based on scores given in a number of areas:
- the size of production
- the number of customers served and how vulnerable they are
- the standards of repair, cleanliness and food hygiene
- the history of compliance with the law
The interval between inspections varies from six months to three years and is determined by the risk that the food activities pose to the public. Those premises that are inspected most frequently include those where standards are poor or where the customers are in a high risk group, such as elderly people in a nursing home. Very low risk food businesses include newsagents selling sweets.
Most ordinary catering premises, in reasonable condition, with reasonable practices, are inspected every 18 – 24 months. These are minimum inspection times, and officers will visit more if they feel it necessary.
Who will visit and when?
Inspections are carried out by qualified officers with suitable training and experience. Officers will not normally make an appointment and will occasionally visit outside normal office hours, especially if the business only runs in the evenings or at weekends.
Authorised Officers have a legal right of entry to the premises at all reasonable times, and proprietors must not refuse to let them in. Refusal of entry is a criminal offence, punishable with a heavy fine on conviction.
Powers of Officers
- Officers may enter any food premises without prior notification. The only exception to this is private dwellings which can be entered after 24 hours notice. However, a private dwelling may be entered without prior notice if a warrant is firstly obtained. A food safety inspection can take place at any time during normal opening hours. This may also be in the early morning or late at night.
- Officers have the power to take samples, photographs and inspect records.
- Officers may detain or seize food they suspect to be unsafe.
- Officers may recommend prosecution, or impose prohibitions on the business or work equipment.
- Officers may serve a range of legal notices depending on the severity of the offence.
The Inspection - what happens
- Upon arrival the officer will show his or her means of identification. They will also carry a warrant detailing the powers available to them. You are entitled to see these documents and may phone the office to confirm the Officer's identity if you wish.
- The Officer will try to speak to the person in charge of the food operation (usually the owner or manager) to explain the reasons for the inspection. Most inspections are simply programmed visits, although some may be as a result of a complaint.
- During the inspection the Officer will be looking at the condition and fabric of all food rooms, and looking at food production at all stages of the process.
- Officers may speak with members of staff to ensure that they are carrying out safe practices and that they understand the reasons for these.
- Officers will want to examine paperwork relating to temperature checks, pest control, hazard analysis, refuse collection and cleaning schedules. There may also be other documentation that the officer wants to see. It is advisable, therefore, that records are kept somewhere where they can be easily accessed.
- Officers may want to check systems to ensure that they are working, for instance taking readings of fridge temperatures to ensure that temperature records are accurate and that the legal requirements are being complied with.
- Officers will ideally want to see the ways in which food is handled, and food safety is managed, and satisfy themselves that all of the food safety hazards in the business have been identified, and effective procedures have been put in place to control them.
If necessary, an officer may:
- detain or seize food;
- issue an 'hygiene emergency prohibition notice', closing down the premises, if there is an imminent risk to public health;
- prosecute, if legal contraventions are serious. The courts may impose prohibitions, fines or imprisonment, on conviction.
Officers work to a common standard and will comply with requirements of the Codes of Practice issued by the Food Standards Agency, and with any other recognised guidance.
After the inspection
- Immediately after the inspection the officer will want to discuss any findings with you. This is the best time to ask questions regarding findings or any technical questions relating to the works being requested. The Officer will also discuss with you the time scales within which the work should be completed.
- The options open to Officers after an inspection vary depending on the severity of the contraventions and the relative risk to public health.
- The most common option is either a premises inspection report and/or a letter. These confirm in writing the measures required by law to bring the premises to a satisfactory standard and also recommendations based on good practice. The legal requirements and recommendations will be clearly identified. If there are any queries regarding what is being asked of you, it is important to contact the Officer who issued the letter. These contact details are on the letter or inspection report.
- A revisit may also be necessary after the letter has been issued. This enables an officer to be certain that works have been completed satisfactorily, or are in hand. If there are likely to be any problems with completing the works within the time given, you should contact the officer as soon as possible in order to discuss these problems.
Frequency of Inspections
Visits to premises are priority programmed according to the degree of potential risk. This ensures that higher risk premises are visited more frequently than those in lower risk categories.
The frequency depends on:
- The type of food and method of handling
- Whether there are any high risk processing activities
- The size of the business, in terms of the number of customers
- Compliance with food hygiene practices
- Compliance with structural requirements
- How confident we are in the management of the food business
- Whether the food handling practices we see could pose a significant risk to health
The inspection results in a score that determines the date of the next inspection (anywhere between 6 months and 5 years). The score given reflects the risks identified; therefore the higher the score the greater the inspection frequency, i.e.
- High risk premises - Inspected at least annually
- Medium risk premises - Inspected at least every 2 years
- Low risk premises - Inspected at least every 5 years
Hygiene Improvement Notices
These can be served by authorised officers where the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the food business operator is failing to comply with any of the food safety requirements. This is typically served where the risk to human health is not immediate and where informal measures (such as letters) may have failed.
The improvement notice will state the officer's grounds for believing that the food business operator is failing to comply with the regulations, and will specify the matters which constitute that failure. The officer will also include details of measures which the food business operator should take in order to secure compliance. Alternative measures can also be taken, but only where they will be as effective as the measures set down in the notice. The notice will also set out a timescale for the completion of works. A failure to comply with the notice is an offence under the Regulations.
Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices and Orders
A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice is issued where there is an imminent risk to human health present. For example a rat or mouse infestation with obvious evidence of droppings in food would constitute an imminent risk. The notice can prohibit a practice or use of part or all of a premises with immediate effect. The Officer will then apply to the Magistrates for a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order, in order to confirm the actions taken under the notice. If you are issued with such a notice, guidance will be given in order to respond to the notice or make a defence to the Magistrate.