Food safety inspections

Our food safety officers have powers to enter and inspect commercial premises at all reasonable hours. We do not have to make an appointment and will usually visit without notice during normal opening hours in the daytime and evenings. If the food business is run from a home address then we will contact you in advance to book a convenient time to carry out the inspection.

The frequency of inspection will depend on the risk to the public presented by the business, this can vary from 6 months to 36 months. The frequency is based on the following criteria:

  • The type of food prepared and whether a high risk process is used such as vacuum packing, sous-vide or cook-chill.
  • The number of consumers at risk and whether they are a member of a high risk group such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly or immune-suppressed.
  • Compliance with legislation and codes of practice including hygiene controls, structural requirements
  • Confidence in the management of the food business. This will include an assessment of compliance with any documented food safety controls such as Safer Food Better Business or any other food safety systems.

We have the power to take samples, photographs and inspect records. We can detain or seize any food that we suspect is unsafe. If there is an imminent risk to health, we may serve a hygiene emergency prohibition notice, which prevents the use of a process, premises or a specific piece of equipment. In most cases we will advise and support businesses to solve problems. If there are concerns that public safety is being put at risk, we will consider legal action.

Inspection process

We will introduce ourselves, produce identification and explain why the inspection is being carried out. This may typically be following a complaint or a routine inspection. We will discuss our observations with the person responsible for food safety on site, often referred to as the food business operator.

During the visit we may look at the condition and structure of all the food rooms, take temperature readings of equipment, watch food being prepared, and question staff and the proprietor about food handling practices and procedures.

We will check that any paperwork relating to suppliers, temperature records, hazard analysis, cleaning schedules, refuse contracts and pest control records are up to date and being completed correctly.

After the inspection

We will discuss the findings of the inspection, making it clear what is a legal requirement and what is a recommendation. We will also be happy to answer any queries and agree timescales should we require any follow up action to be taken. A letter detailing these requirements may be sent following the inspection with your food hygiene rating score, unless this has been provided in writing at the time of the inspection.

A follow-up visit may be needed to check that any matters requiring attention have been suitably addressed. It is important that you contact the inspecting officer or, in their absence, the team leader responsible for food safety if any of our requirements cannot be completed within the time scale agreed. Contact details will be included on any correspondence sent to you.

Low risk food premises

Although you will need to register your food business we do not routinely inspect low risk food businesses. However, you will need to provide us with information about your food business to help us decide if it is a high or low risk business.

To help fulfil the requirements of our food safety inspection programme and to determine if your business should be included in the programme, we contact our low risk food businesses every three years and ask them to complete a low risk food business questionnaire. The information you provide will help us to decide whether a food hygiene inspection should be carried out, keeps us informed about what your business does and informs us of any changes that may have taken place. Depending on whether your low risk business is included within the food hygiene rating scheme, it may receive a food hygiene inspection and we reserve the right to carry out an inspection at any time. We will always inform you as to the reasons why an inspection is necessary.

To complete and submit the low risk questionnaire online, please select the button below:

Low risk premises questionnaire

If you would like a paper copy for manual completion please email

Premises that are considered to be higher risk or premises for which no questionnaire has been returned when requested will be included in our inspection programme.

Examples of low risk premises will include:

  • Home baking where the final product can be stored at room temperature with no requirement for refrigeration
  • Infused alcohol where fruits are used to flavour
  • Providing cookery classes to people
  • Jam and chutney making
  • Homemade cereals and cereal bars, flapjacks, loose dried fruits and nuts assembled or pre-packed by seller
  • Health products, vitamins, supplements, nuts and dried fruits assembled or pre-packed by seller
  • Cake decoration items (edible and non-edible)
  • Sweets and confectionary assembled or pre-packed by seller and loose
  • Pre-prepared olives and favoured oil (olive, truffle)
  • Making up and selling hampers of pre-packaged food not requiring temperature control
  • Breakfast and after school clubs supplying cereal, toast etc.
  • Mobile coffee vans serving pre-packed shelf stable cakes and pastries
  • Greengrocers selling whole fruit and vegetables

Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

After an inspection, we issue businesses with a food hygiene rating. Further information on this scheme and how the score is assessed is available at the hygiene ratings website or visit our Food Hygiene Rating Scheme webpage.

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