Inspecting & Investigating

Food Premises Inspections

The primary responsibility for identifying food hazards and putting into place controls rests with food business proprietors. The inspections of food premises that are undertaken by the environmental health team serve the following purposes:

  • To find whether businesses are complying with food hygiene regulations and establish whether food is being handled, produced and sold hygienically.
  • To take action when this is not the case.
  • To work with local businesses in improving food hygiene standards.
  • To establish whether food is safe to eat.

The team has the main responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 in relation to food safety.

Will I be charged for an inspection?

There is no charge for a routine food hygiene inspection, revisit to check compliance with statutory contraventions, complaint investigation or sampling visit.

There is a charge for a re-inspection. If a food business requests a re-visit with the aim to improve its food hygiene rating score, there is a charge of £155.

Food Hygiene Ratings

The food hygiene rating or inspection result given to a business reflects the standards of food hygiene found on the date of inspection or visit by the local authority. The food hygiene rating is not a guide to food quality.

More information can be found on the Food Hygiene Rating for Food Business Operators webpage.

Who inspects food businesses?

An Environmental Health Officer will inspect food businesses in Surrey Heath (always ask to see some form of official identification - if in doubt call us on 01276 707100). Food inspections are normally carried out without prior notice and the inspection time varies. They could be carrying out a routine inspection or visiting as a result of a complaint. They will look at the way you operate your business to identify potential hazards and make sure that you are complying with the law.

How often are businesses inspected by Environmental Health?

Inspection intervals range from every six months (highest risk) to every three years (lowest risk). The frequency is assessed at the end of the inspection, and depends on a variety of factors including:

  • The type of food prepared, methods of handling and whether high risk processes are involved
  • The number of consumers at risk and whether they are in a high-risk group
  • General compliance with hygiene rules

What happens during an inspection?

The officer(s) will:

  • talk to staff about how the staff handle and prepare food 
  • check all parts of your premise and equipment for good cleanliness, layout and maintenance
  • talk to you about staff training, controlling hazards and temperature control

The officer(s) may will also inspect relevant documentation, which may include menus, recipes, temperature records, food safety management systems, pest control records, allergen information. Inspectors may also take samples and swabs.

What will happen if an officer finds problems at my business?

This depends on the seriousness of the problem. If the contravention(s) is less serious we will advise you on what those contraventions are and provide timescales to comply. This will usually be followed up by a warning letter, and a revisit carried out to check improvements have been carried out.

More serious matters will be dealt with more formally, ranging from the service of an improvement notice to possible prosecution for very serious offences. In very serious situations (such as very dirty premises or a serious pest infestation) you may be required to close your business until the matters have been resolved. However, in most cases we will help businesses comply with the regulations.

What powers do officer have?

Officer have the power to:

  • take samples and photographs and inspect records
  • write informally asking the proprietor to put right any problems they find - where breaches of the law are identified, which must be put right, they may serve an Improvement Notice
  • detain or seize food
  • in serious cases they may decide to recommend a prosecution (if the prosecution is successful, the Court may impose prohibitions on processes and the use of premises and equipment, impose fines, prohibit someone from running a food business and possibly imprisonment for serious offences)
  • if there is an imminent health risk to consumers, inspectors can serve a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice that forbids the use of the premises or equipment - the Courts must confirm such a notice
  • inspectors can also formally exclude someone from working in a food business if they are found to be suffering with a food-borne illness or infectious disease

What am I entitled to expect from the officer?

You can expect our officer to:

  • have a courteous manner
  • show identification
  • give feedback from any inspection, such as information about hazards which have been identified and guidance on how they should be avoided
  • clearly distinguish between what you must do to comply with the law and what is recommended good practice
  • give you the reasons in writing for any action you are asked to take
  • show where there is a breach of law and a statement of what that law is
  • give you reasonable time to meet statutory requirements (except where there is an immediate risk to public health)
  • outline procedures for appealing against local authority action

May I refuse entry?

No. It is a criminal offence to obstruct an authorised officer in the course of his or her duty. Officers have the right of entry to food premises in reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and they will usually come without advance notice.

What should I do if I receive an Improvement Notice?

You must take immediate steps to ensure that you comply with it, within the specified time period. If you do not comply then you may be prosecuted. If you cannot comply within the time period you should contact the officer who served the notice, or the Environmental Health Department immediately. We encourage you to keep in contact with the officer to let them know of the progress that you are making to comply with the notice.

What if you do not agree with the officer’s action?

If you do not agree with the action taken by an officer, you should first contact the team manager to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If you are still unhappy with the outcome you may use the council’s complaints procedure. If you think that Surrey Heath is applying the law in a different way to other local authorities you can seek advice from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. You have the right to appeal to a Magistrates Court against an Improvement Notice or refusal by a Local Authority to lift an Emergency Prohibition Order.

What happens if my practises are identified as being consistently good?

Ultimately you will be inspected less frequently, and you will achieve the highest rating under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

Where can I get further help?

Speak to the officer who inspects your premises. You can also find information on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website, and from the publications listed below:

View Food Hygiene - A Guide for Businesses A general guide to food hygiene regulations.