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Food safety - inspections
Food law inspections and businesses in the food industry
The Food Safety Act 1990 (www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1990/Ukpga_19900016_en_1.htm)
and regulations made under it aim to make sure all food offered to
the public is safe to eat and properly described.
The role of Medway Council's Environmental Health and Trading
Standards services is to help people to produce safe food
and to meet their other responsibilities. Environmental health
officers check on food safety and hygiene, while trading standards
officers concentrate on food composition and labelling.
Environmental health officers 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 advance notice. 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 much
Inspectors will look at the way people operate their businesses
to identify potential hazards and to make sure they comply with the
law. They will discuss any problems and advise on possible
solutions. They also have powers which they can use when they think
it necessary to protect the public. These are explained below.
People running food businesses are entitled to expect:
- a courteous manner;
- to be shown identification;
- feedback from any inspection, such as information about hazards
which have been identified and guidance on how they could be
- a clear distinction between what the inspector is recommending
them to do because it is good practice and what they must do to
comply with the law;
- to be given the reasons in writing for any action they are
asked to take;
- where there is an apparent breach of law, a statement of what
that law is;
- reasonable time to meet statutory requirements, except where
there is an immediate risk to public health;
- to be told the procedures for appealing against council
The inspectors' powers
They can take samples and photographs and inspect records.
People running food businesses and their employees must not
obstruct inspectors. Inspectors may write and ask businesses to put
right any problems they find. Where breaches of the law are
identified that must be put right, they may serve people with an
improvement notice. They can detain or seize suspect food. In
serious cases, they may decide to recommend a prosecution. If the
prosecution is successful, the court may impose prohibitions on
processes and the use of premises or equipment, fines and possibly
imprisonment. If there is an imminent health risk to consumers,
inspectors can serve an emergency prohibition notice that forbids
the use of the premises or equipment. A notice must be confirmed by
If you think the outcome is not fair
If you do not agree with action taken by the inspector, you
should first contact the council, using the contact details below,
to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If disagreement
remains after that you could approach your local councillor.
If you think the council is applying the law in a different way
from others, you can seek advice from the Local Authorities
Co-ordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards (LACOTS) either
through your trade association or the council.
You have the right of appeal at a magistrates court against an
improvement notice or a refusal by the council to lift an emergency
prohibition order made earlier by the court.
A magistrates' court must confirm the emergency closure of a
business or the seizure of food. If magistrates decide premises
have been shut without proper reason or food has been wrongly
seized or detained, you have a right to compensation.
Medway Council is ready to help if you need any advice on food
safety or labelling. Trade associations and independent consultancy
services can also help.