Posted on: 27 November 2018 (updated on 23 April)
Preparing for a health and safety inspection
Any chef worth their salt will tell you that great cooking starts with a clean kitchen. While flavour and perfect seasoning are subjective measures, food safety laws are prescribed by the government and should be followed as standard.
From disinfecting work surfaces to monitoring serving temperatures, there is a smorgasbord of safety laws to acknowledge if you are to earn a solid food hygiene rating. If, however, these rules and regulations are ignored, one runs the risk of harming their reputation, or worse, being closed down.
Here are a few ways you can prepare for a health and safety inspection in your restaurant.
As a restaurant owner, you are legally obliged to make sure your employees handle, serve and store food in accordance with the food safety laws. As such, your staff will need to take part in at least two food hygiene courses (Food Safety Awareness and Food Hygiene Training), while supervisors are required to take Supervising Food Safety as an additional course.
The topics typically covered in food safety standards training include:
- Refrigeration best practices
- Food preparation and storage
- Personal hygiene
- Cleaning chemicals and their usage
- Allergy, infection, poisoning and contamination awareness
- Respecting best-before and use-by dates
- Incident reporting
Those who pass these courses will receive a certificate. This can then be used as evidence of sufficient training during a food safety inspection. Unlike food itself, these training certificates don’t expire; however, it is recommended that staff are updated on food safety procedures annually.
To find food training courses in your area, contact your local council.
In preparation for a health and safety inspection, you should compile evidence of your food safety practices to date. As such, it’s best practice to keep records from the first day of business.
As a minimum, you should be able to show your health and safety inspector the following:
- Refrigerator and display cabinet temperatures
- A cleaning checklist, including names of cleaners and areas cleaned (if necessary, include the cleaning chemicals used)
- Food delivery records and receipts, including dates of incoming deliveries
- Cooking, cooling and reheating temperatures
- Waste items, including dates of disposal
You should also record each product’s ‘traceability’. This identifies each product’s path, from origin to supply. As a restaurant, you will need to keep traceability records for each product. This is expected to be tracked for as long as products are in your keeping and will be reviewed upon inspection.
If you need a blank template to work from, take a look at the catering record forms on the Food Standards Agency website.
What to expect from a food inspection
You should be prepared for a health and safety inspector to assess all areas of your restaurant, so they can check how compliant you are with food safety law. This can take several hours, so be prepared to put time aside to show them around if they do pay you a visit.
You should expect your health and safety inspector to review the following:
- Personal hygiene practices
- Labelling practices
- Equipment maintenance
- Pest control practices
- Contamination prevention
- Cleaning techniques
- Temperature control
- Condition of the premises
- Food safety management
As they inspect the premises, there are several actions that a health and safety inspector can provide. This is outlined in the Food Law Code of Practice, which states (among many things) that inspectors should:
- Offer advice if appropriate or requested
- Encourage food business operators to adopt good practice
- Discuss any corrective actions
- Inform you of any further action the inspector plans to take
If, at the end of their visit, your health and safety inspector is unsatisfied with products or practices, they have the power to take samples, detain or seize suspect foods.
If wider problems occur, such as inadequate food storage and contamination, then the food safety inspectors can take enforcement action against your business. You will receive this in a written letter after your inspection, with recommended actions. Similarly, if minor issues are noted, this will also be sent in a letter which outlines the required improvements.
Restaurants which pose an immediate risk to public health, however, will be closed down immediately. If food safety recommendations are not met, fines, suspension, and/or a prison term could be enforced.
When to expect a visit
There is no fixed schedule for how often a health and safety inspector needs to review your premises. Your ‘routine checks’ can be anything from once every six months, annually or bi-annually. However, if you have received a complaint or received poor results from previous inspections, inspections may be more frequent. If your business has just opened, a food inspection is also likely.
Even if your restaurant abides by all food safety best practices, it is necessary to safeguard your business should the worse happen. For instance, product liability could cover you for the products you serve to your customers. Public Liability insurance can cover against injury, loss and damage to customers visiting your restaurant. Additionally, if you have at least one employee, you are legally required to take out employers’ liability insurance.
Take a look at the types of restaurant insurance Premierline can arrange to suit your eatery’s insurance needs.
Please note, the best practices listed above are a snapshot of how to prepare for a food inspection. For a full list of the health and safety requirements expected of your restaurant, we advise reviewing the HSE website.
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