Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) - frequently asked questions (FAQ)
1. Why are food businesses inspected?
Officers from the Food and Safety Team at Waltham Forest Council inspect businesses that produce or prepare food or drink for the public to make sure that:
- Food or drink is safe to eat
- The description of the food or drink does not mislead the customer
2. Who will inspect my business?
Authorised officers from the Food and Safety Team will come to inspect your business. In general, officers will check on food hygiene, and will look at food standards such as composition (what food contains) and labelling.
3. What will the inspectors do when they visit?
Our officers will look at how you operate your business to identify potential hazards, and to make sure that your business is following the law. When inspectors visit, they must follow the Food Standards Agency’s Framework Agreement on local authority food law enforcement, and relevant Food Safety Act Codes of Practice.
The Framework Agreement sets standards for how local authorities carry out their enforcement duties. You can read it on the Food Standards Agency website at www.food.gov.ukYou can expect our officers to show you identification when they arrive and be polite throughout the visit. They should always give you feedback on an inspection. This means they will tell you about any hazards they have identified and advise you about how they can be avoided. If inspectors advise you to do something, they must tell you whether you need to do it to comply with the law, or whether it would simply be good practice.
4. When will my business be inspected?
The inspectors might come on a routine inspection, or they might visit because of a complaint. How often the inspectors routinely inspect your business depends on the type of food hazards there and how well you have tackled the risks arising from them. Some premises might be inspected at least every six months, others much less often.Officers have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and will usually come without notice. Regrettably, they may need to see how well you cope at the busiest times.
5. What further action can the inspectors take?
When they think it is necessary, inspectors can take ‘enforcement action’, to protect the public. For example, they can:
If a prosecution is successful, the court may prohibit you from using certain processes, premises or equipment, or you could be banned from managing a food business. It could also lead to a fine or imprisonment.If you are asked to take any action as a result of the inspection, you must be given the reasons in writing. If the inspectors decide that you are breaking a law, they must tell you what that law is.The inspectors should give you a reasonable amount of time to make changes, except where there is an immediate risk to public health. They must also tell you how you can appeal against their actions (see ‘How can I appeal?’).Food that has been seized by an inspector can only be condemned as unfit for human consumption on the authority of a Justice of the Peace. You can attend the court hearing if you want to. If the court decides that premises have been shut without proper reason, or food has been wrongly seized or detained, you have a right to compensation.
- Take samples and photographs of food, and inspect your records
- Write to you informally, asking you to put right any problems
- Serve you with a 'hygiene improvement notice’ if you are breaking the law, which sets out certain things that you must do to comply
- Detain or seize suspect foods
- Serve an ‘hygiene emergency prohibition notice’, which forbids the use of premises or equipment (this notice must be confirmed by a court)
- Recommend a prosecution, in serious cases
6. How can I appeal?
Every local authority must have a formal procedure to deal with complaints about its service. So if you do not agree with action taken by an inspector, you should contact the head of environmental health or trading standards services at your local authority, to see if the problem can be resolved through talking or writing letters. If you still disagree after that, you could approach your local councillor.If you think your local authority is applying the law in a different way from other authorities, you can seek advice from the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) either through your trade association or your local authority.You can appeal to the magistrates’ court about an improvement notice, or your local authority’s decision not to lift an emergency prohibition order. When there is a ban on an individual, this can only be lifted by the court.When inspectors impose an emergency prohibition notice on premises, a process, or a piece of equipment, they must apply to the court for confirmation within a specified period of time.
7. Where can I get advice to help me follow food law?
The Food and Safety Team can advise you about food hygiene and food standards. Trade associations and independent consultancy services might also be able to help.You can visit the Food Standards Agency website at www.food.gov.uk for more information about food law and good practice.