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.
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).
There are three strands to an inspection:
1. Safe food practices:
2. Premises and environment
3. Safety management
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.
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.
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.
Trail's Compliance Advisor James Sergeant is an ex-EHO. He shared his advice.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Food safety management:
Here are some more top tips for staying prepared:
And here's what to do when an Officer shows up:
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.
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.
Trail is a simple checklist app that replaces your existing paper processes for an easier way to stay compliant.
Through the day, Trail lets the right person know at the right time what needs doing. Everyone knows what to do and when to do it. Completed tasks form a secure digital log so you have perfect record keeping at your finger tips when the EHO walks in.
Get ready for that 5 hygiene rating.