In accordance with the Food law Code of
Practice all food premises in the county are subject to
routine inspections by Food Safety Officers. The frequency of
inspection is determined by 'risk', with higher risk premises being
inspected more regularly.
The purpose of food hygiene inspections
Food hygiene inspections have three main
- To identify contraventions of and ensure
compliance with food safety legislation
- To identify potential risks arising from the
activities carried out in the food business and ensure that
appropriate controls have been developed and are being properly
- To offer advice about good food hygiene
Environmental Health Officers and Food Safety
Officers have the authority to enter food premises at all
reasonable hours and usually without prior notice.
In the case of a routine inspection the
Officer will identify themselves (all Northumberland County
Council employees carry photographic identification) and
explain the reason for the visit.
The officer will wear a clean coat and wear
head protection if appropriate.
Under the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations
it is an offence to obstruct an officer in the course of their
duties. Obstruction may be physical or it may be the refusal to
provide information or the giving of false information.
The officer will carry out a thorough
inspection of the structure of the premises (including equipment
used in food preparation) and discuss practices and procedures with
the manager and food handlers.
The officer can also look at various records
about the training of staff, temperature control, cleaning
schedules and pest control. These records will allow an officer to
make an assessment as to the adequacy of the systems already in
place and to offer advice on the improvements that may be
The hygiene regulations now require all food
businesses to have a documented food safety management system to
ensure that food is produced hygienically
Safer Food Better Business is a
novel, simple and jargon free system developed by the food
standards agency and catering industry in order to assist smaller
food business to meet these requirements.
The inspection report
At the completion of the inspection, the
officer will write a report for the food business operator
detailing any matters which were apparent at the time of the visit
and which will require attention.
The report will specify and distinguish
between those matters that are required by law and those
representing good practice.
Follow up action
Depending on the nature of the issues found an
officer may take the following courses of action to ensure
compliance or protect public safety.
- Verbal advice
- A letter or informal notice
- A hygiene improvement notice
- A hygiene prohibition order (which can close
- A prosecution
- Suspect foodstuffs may also be seized or
The appropriate course of action will depend
on the circumstances found and past history. Reference is also made
to the division's enforcement policy.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
After an inspection has been carried out, it
will be given a Food Hygiene Rating. The rating ranges
from '0' for the worst level of compliance, through to '5' for full
compliance representing the very best standards of food safety
management and hygiene. These ratings are published on the
'Food Standards Agency'
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Website and a sticker and
certificate are given to the food business operator for display if
The frequency of inspections of food premises
is based on an assessment of their risk. Some food premises will
present a higher risk to the public than others. This is dependent
upon a number of factors such as the type of business, the nature
of the food, the degree of food handling and the number of
customers that are at risk.
Those premises posing a higher risk to the
consumer will be inspected more frequently than those premises
with a lower risk.
Food premises are inspected within a range of
at least every six months to at least every five years. These are
only guideline frequencies and can be varied where appropriate.