Preparing for an EHO Visit to your Food Business
With Covid-19 now on the list of hazards that food businesses face have you planned how you will protect the food from this contamination?
When an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) visits your food premises they have key areas on their mind influenced from The Food Hygiene Regulations 2005. When I teach Food Safety these are discussed during training.
Key areas they will focus on include
- The premises
- Business records
- Safety procedures particular to your business
As some Managers tell me, by the time an EHO enters the premises they have already had a look around the back.
The state of your premises is what’s known as a prerequisite when producing safe food. In other words EHO’s will expect you to keep the premises in good repair at all times. The state of your floors, walls and ceilings are part of the inspection. Are they in good repair and clean? Does their design lend itself to easy cleaning? Although it isn’t against the law to use tiles they will be harder to clean in the long term and they are bound to crack at some point which means dirt, bacteria and even pests will persist there. Stainless steel is ideal for work surfaces but if you do use wood surfaces they must be hard wearing as outlined below.
Let’s face it, if you’re place looks a mess then you’re hardly giving the inspector a good impression.
What should I choose?
- Hard wearing
- Non porous
- Non slip
- Light coloured
- Chemical resistant
For further advice on which type of flooring to use visit www.floortech.co.uk
Your inspector will check you have running hot and cold water, hand wash facilities are adequate, drainage and importantly capable extraction to reduce any build up of condensation. Toilets are suitable and in good repair. To ensure easy cleaning your equipment such as chest freezers should be easy to move or as the Law states “be easy to clean and easy to keep clean.”
They will check that the place is secure from pests gaining entry. The outside perimeter of your venue can be part of the inspection process and how tidy are your outside bins?
In summary your premises should be easy to clean and easy to keep clean – Why? If not then it is likely the premises itself will contaminate the food you produce. Allowing food to become contaminated is illegal!
Any EHO will ask to see your records. It is vital to keep records as it will support any diligence defence should you face prosecution and mitigate any enforcement action against you. As we say in Health and Safety “if you don’t write it down then it doesn’t happen.” Having records of your procedures etc holds the business accountable and besides you would be operating illegally without them.
It is a legal requirement to have a Food Safety Management system in place (called HACCP) and for small catering businesses “Safer Food Better Business” is ideal.
Make sure you keep all Food Safety records separate to any other Health and Safety records you have – different Acts of Law and I’m sure it will keep your EHO happy if they can easily navigate through your records.
An EHO reading through your records is essentially getting to know what you actually do in your working environment so then if they don’t match up to how the place looks then you will have a problem. E.g. suppliers’ list is out of date? How can you trace back if you have any safety concerns?
What kind of records should I keep?
- Suppliers’ list
- Training records
- Cleaning schedules
- Allergens and traceability
- Temperature checks
- Pest measures
- Contamination controls
For small catering businesses these records (and others) will make up your HACCP system – a legal requirement.
Just remember experienced EHO can spot when records look contrived, it’s not that hard and on some occasions I have noticed records with my own clients that I feel doubtful about. They look as if they have been filled out in a hurry, backdated in the same writing style etc. Some of these records are working documents and should be completed daily as part of your routine.
NOTE: Food businesses need to be operating with Covid-19 measures in place so in addition have a completed risk assessment and staff trained on these measures.
Of course training will make up your business records and be part of your HACCP system but I wanted to highlight some points.
By Law, food safety training is a requirement for all food handlers but it must be commensurate to the job. Level 2 would be adequate for most staff but I frequently come across the senior person in the kitchen with the same level. Level 3 Food Safety training would be correct as this training reflects their role and responsibility. Remember the law states training and not a qualification so you could potentially save cost by completing an e learning course. Completed training courses last 3 years when Managers should retrain their staff.
Check out our food safety e courses and you can even try before you buy and complete a free module. This will give you a chance to check the quality e learning platforms we use.
It’s normal for businesses to have staff attend training with staff certificates being stored for diligence purposes but very often I find myself asking Managers what else do you do to ensure staff are competent in their job? Training should be an on-going process, that doesn’t mean keep attending courses but when I worked as a Manager in Hospitality I would have short staff meetings and always include topics relevant to their job. They would literally take 15 mins, on topics such as reminding staff to record the fridge temperature, remind customers to look at the allergen info or use the provided torch in the dry store to check for pest evidence. These staff meetings would get recorded and stored in the training section of my file.
If you need any help on providing short training sessions to your staff get in touch. I can provide you with suitable topics and provide you with ideas on how to make the session effective.
Food safety procedures
Put simply this is what you and your staff actively do on shift to keep food safe from contamination. During the inspection your staff will be working and the EHO will notice how they work. They may well ask staff some questions which they should know the answers to (remember earlier how I spoke about the importance of on-going training – you will impress the EHO if your staff have all the answers).
What will they be looking for?
- Staff cleanliness and PPE being worn
- Separate areas for staff to work e.g. raw and cooked foods
- Is your fridge clean, suitably stored with stock control in evidence
- Dry storage is clean and food is protected from contamination
- Adequate number of clean bins
- Cleaning chemicals are suitable for use in food rooms and stored away from food.
- Any suitable signage on display (E.g. Handwash, use of correct chopping boards etc).
- Critical control points – esp temperature controls
- Suitable workflow (if achievable)
Environmental Health Officers must uphold the Law so if they see any sub standard practices which could endanger the food you produce they WILL action it. Improvement Notices or even Closure are amongst the powers they possess. Work with them and show a positive attitude as they enter. If they do find any small faults then you will be given the chance to fix it, so ask them for advice but do action it quickly. Invite them back in yourself. Show you are making an effort and learn from your mistakes.
See the inspection as a challenge to keeping the 5 stars you have worked hard to achieve, it will become a normal part of your daily routine in no time.