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Food business inspections

Why are food businesses inspected?

Businesses that produce or prepare food for the public are inspected to make sure that:

  • The food is safe to eat.
  • The premises and procedures comply with legal requirements.
  • The description of the food does not mislead the customer.

These inspections enforce the Food Safety Act 1990, European Communities Act 1972 and the regulations made under these laws. These regulations include the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, General Food Regulations 2004 and Official Feed and Food Controls (England) Regulations 2009.

Who will inspect my business?

Environmental Health Officers from Tandridge District Council will regularly come to inspect your business to check on food safety and hygiene standards. Surrey County Council Trading Standards Officers look at food standards such as composition (what food contains) and labelling.

When will my business be inspected?

The inspectors might come on a routine inspection, or they might visit because of a complaint. How often the inspectors routinely inspect your business depends on the type of business and its previous record. Some premises might be inspected at least every six months, others much less often.

Environmental health officers and trading standards officers have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and will usually come without notice. They will always have some form of identity and written authorisation to undertake food safety work.

What will the inspectors do when they visit?

The inspectors will look at how you operate your business to identify potential hazards, and to make sure that your business complies with the law.

The inspectors will also want to be satisfied that you have an effective food safety system commensurate with the type and size of food business you operate, all the food handlers know how to handle food correctly and that you keep appropriate records.

When inspectors visit, they must follow the Food Standards Agency's Framework Agreement on Local Authority Food Law Enforcement, Food Law Codes of Practice (England) and Practice guidance. The Framework Agreement sets standards for how Local Authorities carry out their enforcement duties.

You can read it on the Food Standards Agency website at www.food.gov.uk

You can expect the inspectors to show you identification when they arrive and be polite throughout the visit. They should always give you feedback on an inspection. This means they will tell you about any hazards or contraventions that they have identified and advise you about how they can be avoided or remedied.

If inspectors advise you to do something, they will tell you whether you need to do it to comply with the law, or whether it would simply be good practice.

If you are asked to take any action as a result of the inspection, you must be given the reasons in writing. If the inspectors decide that you are breaking a law, they must tell you what that law is.

The inspectors will give you a reasonable amount of time to make changes, except where there is an immediate risk to public health. They must also tell you how you can appeal against their actions (see 'How can I appeal?' below).

What action can the inspectors take?

When they think it is necessary, inspectors can take 'enforcement action', to protect the public. For example, they can:

  • take samples and photographs of food, and inspect your records
  • write to you informally, asking you to put right any problems
  • serve you with a hygiene improvement notice or an improvement notice if you are breaking the law, which sets out what you must do to comply
  • detain or seize suspect foods
  • serve a hygiene emergency prohibition notice requiring you to stop using a premises, process, treatment or equipment immediately (this notice must be confirmed by a court within a certain period)
  • serve an 'emergency prohibition notice', which forbids the use of premises or equipment (this notice must be confirmed by a court within a certain period)
  • notify you of an intention to apply to the court for a hygiene prohibition order which if granted would require you to stop using a premises, process, treatment or equipment
  • serve a remedial action notice upon the operator of approved premises requiring action to be taken
  • serve a food detention notice to detain food for examination
  • notify you by notice that the remedial action or detention notice is withdrawn
  • issue a certificate that a health risk condition associated with a hygiene prohibition order, a hygiene emergency prohibition notice or a hygiene emergency prohibition order no longer exists
  • issue a notice that a health risk condition associated with a hygiene prohibition order, a hygiene emergency prohibition notice or a hygiene emergency prohibition order remains in existence
  • issue a certificate that food has not been produced, processed or distributed in compliance with hygiene regulations
  • recommend a prosecution.

If a prosecution is successful, the court may prohibit you from using certain processes, premises or equipment, or you could be banned from managing a food business. It could also lead to a fine or imprisonment.

How can I appeal?

Every Local Authority must have a formal procedure to deal with complaints about its service. So if you do not agree with action taken by an inspector, you should contact Tandridge District Council Environmental Health or Surrey Trading Standards Services to see if the problem can be resolved. If you still disagree after that, you could approach your local councillor or use the complaints procedure.

If we serve any notice upon you we will provide information about any appeal procedure at the same time

Where can I get advice to help me understand and follow food laws?

  • Tandridge District Council can advise you about food hygiene.
  • Surrey Trading Standards can advise you about food standards and labelling: Surrey Business Advice Service, Surrey Trading Standards, Consort House, 5-7 Queens way, Redhill, Surrey RH1 1YB. Telephone 01372 371737 or 
    E-mail trading.standards@surreycc.gov.uk
  • Trade associations and independent consultancy services might also be able to help.
  • You can visit the Food Standards Agency website at www.food.gov.uk for more information about food law and good practice.