EHO Inspection - How to Ace a Visit Every Time

Joe Cripps
 • 
Oct 2020
8 min read
EHO inspection at restaurant

Anywhere that serves food needs to comply with food safety law. An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) inspection will determine whether you're doing this, and award you accordingly with a hygiene score.

We've created this guide, with the help of an Environmental Health Officer, to help you get a five-star hygiene rating every time.

What is an EHO inspection?

Starting with the basics; Environmental Health Officers monitor and enforce health and hygiene. This applies to all food businesses (restaurants, bars, pubs etc.) of any size.

An EHO will inspect the premises to ensure the correct standards are maintained and the food is safe to eat.

Whether you're a manager, supervisor or owner, you should be expecting a visit – an EHO can turn up at any time, on any day of the week. They don't need to book an appointment.

This is why it's so important to make sure you comply with health and safety laws at all times. An environmental health inspection checklist can help you be prepared, even for impromptu visits (keep reading and scrolling for our checklist template).

What does an EHO look for?

There are three strands to an inspection:

1. Safe food practices:

  • How food is handled and how it's prepared/cooked
  • Whether good practices are followed, e.g. staff washing hands, pest control etc.
  • Food hygiene and safety
  • Contamination prevention methods

2. Premises and environment

  • Cleaning techniques & schedules
  • Equipment/ appliances maintenance
  • Temperature control
  • Overall premises: cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation etc.

3. Safety management

  • Whether you follow a food safety management system (e.g. HAACP)
  • Confidence in management, e.g. record keeping

In short: EHOs make sure you comply with the law. From food preparation to hygiene, they want to make sure your business is safe to the public.

How often do Environmental Health Officers visit?

Visits vary depending on the type of business. And when your next visit happens will depend on the previous one. Companies are scored from A-E on the Food Law Code of Practice, determining whether they're considered low or high risk.

  • A = inspection at least every 6 months
  • B = inspection at least every 12 months
  • C = inspection at least every 18 months
  • D = inspection at least every 2 years
  • E = inspection at least every 3 years

An Environmental Health Officer will turn up whenever unannounced. So it's essential to prepare your team and make sure your business is compliant. Using an environmental health inspection checklist will help you to be EHO-ready.

Team member using an environmental health inspection che

Environmental health inspection checklist

Use our environmental health inspection checklist to inspect your premises and food safety standards before the EHO comes for their official visit. To achieve a 5-star food hygiene rating, you'll need to make sure that you can put a ✅ next to each of the following:

Safe food practices:

  • Do staff tie their hair back or wear a hairnet?
  • Do you keep staff sickness records?
  • Do you have colour-coded chopping boards?
  • Do you have a separate preparation area for raw foods?
  • Do staff regularly wash their hands?

Premises:

  • Do you have a pest control system?
  • Do you have clean and tidy storage areas?
  • Do you have separate sinks for dishwashing and handwashing?
  • Do your fridges and freezers have thermometers?

Food safety management:

  • Do you have a food safety system?
  • Can you provide evidence of all your food safety procedures?
  • Do you have a cleaning schedule?
  • Do you use food probes and keep them clean and calibrated?

From food safety to Covid-19, we have a whole library of checklists to help you stay compliant and EHO-ready, check them out

Here are some more top tips for staying prepared:

  • Keep the outside of your premises tidy (EHOs will judge before even stepping foot in the door)
  • Prove the correct actions have been taken with clear record-keeping
  • Make sure your team maintains good personal hygiene
  • Train all your employees

And here's what to do when an Officer shows up:

  • Make sure they show ID (if it checks out, don't try and block an inspection - this is a criminal offence)
  • Be confident
  • Ensure the EHO provides feedback from an inspection
  • Listen to recommended improvements carefully
  • If you need to make changes, make sure you get it in writing


Advice from an Environmental Health Officer

Trail's Compliance Advisor James Sergeant is an ex-EHO. He shared his advice.

What are the first things an EHO looks for?

I could gauge how well a business was performing within the first 5 minutes of entering.

Whilst washing my hands, I would instantly know whether they had the basics: hot water, soap and paper towels. I could see how people were handling and preparing food, the basic cleaning standards and unit conditions.

What else happens during the visit?

Next, I would physically inspect the area. Talk to the team, probe food for their temperatures and check their due diligence records. Gaps, overwritten or Tipp-Ex on any documents would arouse suspicion.

What are some other red flags?

I would often see the manager run off to the back of the kitchen, grab their clipboard and furiously write things down. All this information immediately fed into my' confidence in management' barometer.

An EHO would never penalise a business for things going wrong, but the critical thing we look out for is learning and responding with corrective action.

What happens at the end of a visit?

Scores on the doors food hygiene rating

You will be presented with a standardised score from 1 to 5, known as 'Scores on the Doors'. Gaining the EHO's confidence and getting that 5-star hygiene rating is critical.

In an era where customers have information at their fingertips, a bad rating could spell disaster for a business. In Wales and Northern Island, it's required by law to quite literally display on the doors, so there's no hiding from it. This will likely become mandatory for England and Scotland too.

What happens if you don't meet the right standards?

An EHO could issue a hygiene improvement notice, which will clearly set out what you need to do to stay compliant. More severely, you could be hit with an emergency prohibition notice, which usually closes you down until further notice. Worst case scenario: an EHO can recommend prosecution if your business is below where it should be. They may also inform your local authority.

Even if you're not shut down, a bad reputation due to a low rating can be tough to repair. Of course, the flip side is that if you get a good score, you can display it with pride.

Feel you've been unfairly assessed? You can appeal within 21 days of being notified of your rating to your local authority's Lead Officer for Food. If you don't appeal in this time, your score will be published online.

Want an easy way to stay EHO-ready?

Build better working standards, day in day out. Trail provides a simple way to stay compliant and meet consistently high standards.

At specific times throughout the day, Trail sets out key tasks, forming good working habits and providing accountability. This replaces paper-based systems that are unreliable and hard to keep track of.

You'll benefit from real-time insights, complete visibility and quality insights. Get ready for that 5-star hygiene rating.

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