Food Hygiene Inspections

The council undertakes hygiene inspections of food premises within the county area.

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 purposes:

  • 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 implemented
  • To offer advice about good food hygiene practices

The inspection

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 required.

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 the premises)
  • A prosecution
  • Suspect foodstuffs may also be seized or detained

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 they wish.

Inspection frequency

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.