EHO Inspection

  • Health & Safety
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Peninsula can help you prepare for your EHO inspection, and ensure your business complies with food and drink laws. And, in this guide, we'll discuss what an EHO inspection involves, food and drink safety laws, as well as how to avoid non-compliance.

If you run a hospitality business, food hygiene should be your main priority. Not only does it prevent injury among your staff and customers, but it ensures you're ready for an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) inspection.

If you don't provide a safe and hygienic workplace, you could fail your EHO inspection. As a result, you may face legal proceedings and reputational damage. Or, you might even face business closure.

Peninsula can help you prepare for your EHO inspection, and ensure your business complies with food and drink laws. And, in this guide, we'll discuss what an EHO inspection involves, food and drink safety laws, as well as how to avoid non-compliance.

What is an EHO?

EHO stands for Environmental Health Officer; a government-appointed employee who's responsible for inspecting food and drink businesses.

Environmental health officers help to protect both public health and the environment. For example, they conduct EHO inspections on food and drink companies - or any business that stores and produces food and drink.

What is an EHO inspection?

An EHO inspection is an analysis of a company's hygiene and food safety practices. EHOs will evaluate the business premises to check all food and drink safety standards are being met. This ensures the food and drink is safe to eat.

For example, they’ll inspect how your business handles and stores food and drink.

What is the food safety law?

The food and drink safety law that applies in the UK is The Food Safety Act (1990). It establishes the main responsibilities of all food and drink businesses in the UK - which are:

  • Businesses must not include anything damaging to a customer's health or the people eating and drinking it. If it does, it must be removed before serving and selling.
  • The food and drink business must ensure all the food and drink they serve, and sell is of the nature, substance, and quality a consumer would expect.
  • The food and drink being served and sold must be labelled, advertised, and presented in a way that's not false or misleading to the consumer.

Meanwhile, the Food Standards Act (1999) outlines that The Food Standards Agency has the legal power to conduct food hygiene inspections. Put simply, they act in the public's interest when it comes to the food and drink industry, and follow the Food Law Code of Practice.

What is the Food Law Code of Practice?

The Food Law Code of Practice is what local authorities follow when enforcing food hygiene rules. All relevant sections must be implemented and complied with. For example, it includes:

  • General obligations the organisation has over official food and drink controls and other official activities.
  • The administrative arrangements a business needs to have regarding their safe food and drink practices.
  • Advice regarding the appointment of a responsible person to oversee food and drink safety management systems. The person you could appoint should be someone with knowledge and experience in food safety.

After the inspection, EHOs will provide the business with a food hygiene rating.

What is a food hygiene rating?

Food hygiene ratings help customers make informed decisions when eating out, as they outline the food hygiene standards of a business. The rating is based on their level of compliance, structural condition, and food management performance.

The food and drink hygiene rating scheme scores businesses as follows:

Zero to one rating

A rating of this kind suggests no awareness of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). HACCP is a management system in which food and drink safety is approached, to ensure the control of all food and drink hazards.

The business also has limited monitoring of critical control points, as well as poor structure and cleanliness. A business with this rating would be at an imminent risk of causing ill health, and urgent improvement is needed.

Two to three rating

This rating means the business demonstrates an awareness of HACCP and routine monitoring of critical control points, but has limited documentation. For example, if the business doesn’t have a written food and drink safety policy.

In relation to structure and cleanliness, the premises must be generally fair. But, a business with this rating would be at high risk of causing ill health.

Four rating

A premise with this rating outlines an understanding of HACCP, and will have good food and drink safety management systems.

The business will also have a good structure and cleanliness throughout.

Five rating

A business with this rating will have a fully documented HACCP-based system, as well as including a system of self-inspection and verification.

Any premise with this rating would be at low risk of causing ill health.

What are the main areas EHOs inspect?

There are three main areas EHOs inspect when visiting a business. Let's explore them in further detail, so you know what food and drink safety your business requires at all times. They are:

Safe food practices

EHOs will evaluate the handling and storing of food and drink, as well as your overall food and drink preparation. This prevents cross-contamination of dangerous bacteria. They’ll consider the:

  • Cleanliness of surfaces: EHOs consider how clean and how often surfaces are sanitised within food and drink production and preparation areas. This includes countertops, sinks, equipment and utensils.
  • Personal hygiene of staff: EHOs also look at the personal hygiene practices of your staff. This means assessing their level of protective clothing, if they're wearing clean uniforms, and if they avoid touching their hair or face when handling raw food and drinks.
  • Temperature control: EHOs will also monitor the temperature of food and drink from the beginning to the end of your food and drink handling process. This is to ensure that it complies with food and drink hygiene standards, and prevents infectious diseases from spreading. Or customers suffering from food and drink poisoning.

Condition of food and drink premises

During an inspection, EHOs will also consider the condition of your food and drink premises, to ensure the food and drink you prepare is kept within a safe environment. This includes monitoring:

  • Structure of premises: EHOs will evaluate how secure your premises are, by looking for cracks, leaks or any damage that could attract pests.
  • Pest control measures: They'll also look at what controls you have in place to prevent pest infestation. For example, they might check for traps, baits, and signs of pests.
  • Waste management system: EHOs will also analyse your waste management practices. They’ll check your storage and disposal of waste.

Food and drink safety management system

In addition to the above, EHOs will evaluate your food and drink safety management system. Meaning, how you enforce food and drink safety within your workplace. They'll look for:

  • Food and drink safety documentation: This includes looking at how your policies align with the current food safety law.
  • Staff training records: For example, they might evaluate how you ensure staff, or your food safety team are trained, such as, if they know how to safely handle food and drink.
  • Procedure manuals: This involves looking at your procedure manuals to ensure they outline detailed steps for safe food handling.

What happens if you fail an EHO inspection?

If you fail an EHO inspection, it could have serious consequences for your business. For example, you will be given a legal notice which requires you to make swift improvements, or you may be subject to legal proceedings.

The type of notice will vary depending on the results of the inspection. For example, it could be one of the following:

  • Hygiene improvement notice: This is a legal document issued when a business has serious food hygiene concerns. It establishes major improvements the business can make to ensure food and drink safety. If they don't, they could face fines or prosecution.
  • Hygiene emergency prohibition notice: This notice is issued when a food and drink business is at immediate risk of harming public health. They must cease food and drink-related activities until these issues are resolved and the premises are deemed safe.
  • Seizure and detention notice: This document protects public health by preventing the sale of food and drink items that are unfit for consumption. The items will be removed from the market until they are properly inspected.

That's not all - if you receive a poor rating it could damage your business's reputation. For example, customers may be made aware of your hygiene score and avoid eating at your premises.

How do you prepare for an EHO inspection?

To prepare for an EHO inspection, you must take several steps and consider your current food hygiene practices. The steps include:

Ensure your workplace is clean

The first step to prepare for any EHO inspection is to ensure your workplace is clean. If you don't already, ensure you have a proper cleaning schedule that all staff stick to.

Outline the basic cleaning standards of your business and ensure everyone is aware of what might happen if they don't. For example, the spread of infectious diseases and the legal consequences for your business.

Train staff on best hygiene standards

When an EHO inspection happens, they'll look for what training you've provided your staff. So keep a record of this and ensure staff working with food and drink know how to safely store and prepare it.

Moreover, ensure at least one member of staff is aware of your food and drink safety management practices, and that they monitor this throughout your business.

Perform a risk assessment

Next, conduct a risk assessment of your workplace. Risk assessments help you identify hazards within your workplace, as well as any areas of risk.

For example, it might reveal that your staff have poor equipment maintenance, or that a food and drink handler is not taking the appropriate steps to ensure cross-contamination. Now you know what to improve, you can begin controlling hazards in your workplace or removing them.


Can food and drink inspectors take pictures without a court order?

Yes, food and drink inspectors have the power to take pictures and samples during an inspection.

Can you refuse a food inspection?

No, you cannot refuse a food and drink inspection, if you do, a warrant from a magistrate can be obtained - allowing them to use reasonable force to enter your premises. EHOs have the right to enter a premises and inspect it without needing a notice.

How often can an environmental health officer visit?

An EHO can perform routine inspections every six months. However, some premises will be inspected much less than this. EHOs don’t have to make an appointment and can visit during reasonable hours. Because of this, you must always comply with food and drink hygiene laws.

How Peninsula can help your business prepare for EHO inspections

Our consultants are here to help your business pass every inspection.

We’ll carry out on-site assessments so you’re confident your workplace is free from hazards and risk of harm. We’ll create workplace policies to keep your team safe. Not to mention, we’ll provide you with expert advice whenever you have a concern or query.

Get expert advice on your EHO inspection from Peninsula

As a food and drink business owner, you must ensure you’re prepared for an EHO inspection. This means ensuring your workplace is clean and tidy, as well as providing adequate food and drink hygiene training to your staff.

Failure to prepare for a food and drink hygiene inspection could mean you fail. Consequently, you may face legal and reputational damages.

Peninsula can help you prepare for your EHO inspection, and ensure your business complies with food and drink laws. Our teams provide 24/7 Health & Safety advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our Health & Safety experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with a Health & Safety consultant today.


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