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Food hygiene regulations and inspections

Regulations have to be adhered to and inspections of these legal requirements may be carried out by environmental health or trading standards officers.

Food hygiene regulations

Food hygiene regulations affect all food businesses, including caterers, primary producers (such as farmers), manufacturers, distributors and retailers. How the legislation affects you will depend on the size and type of your business.

There are a number of EC Regulations, which apply directly to food businesses in the UK, and also national legislation in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Food Standards Agency website contains summary guidance on the changes to the legislation including special packs designed to help small catering businesses keep to the regulations.

Food law inspections

Environmental health and trading standards officers have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. They do not have to make an appointment and they will usually come without warning.

They carry out routine inspections and may also visit as a result of a complaint. How often routine inspections happen depends on the potential risk posed by the type of business and its previous record. Some premises may be inspected at least every six months, others less often.

Inspectors will look at the way the business is run to identify potential hazards and to make sure it complies with the law. They will talk about any problems with the proprietor and advise on possible solutions. They also have powers, which they can use when they think it necessary to protect the public. The powers of inspectors include:

  • taking samples and photographs
  • inspecting records
  • writing to the proprietor informally asking them to put right any problems they find
  • serving improvement notices where breaches in the law are identified
  • detain or seize suspect food
  • recommend prosecution in serious cases. If a prosecution is successful, the court may impose prohibitions on processes and the use of premises and equipment, fines and possibly imprisonment
  • serve emergency prohibition notices in case of an emergency, which forbids the use of the premises or equipment. The court must confirm these.

Inspectors will always give a clear distinction between what is being recommended because it is good practice and what needs to be done in order to meet the law. A reasonable time will always be given to allow the proprietor to meet the statutory requirements, except where there is an immediate risk to public health.

For more information on food hygiene inspections contact the food safety team. 

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Last modified on 09 September 2021