10 tips to get a top Food Hygiene Rating in your next EHO inspection

Table of Contents

Today, let’s talk about your food hygiene inspection.

20230726 084116

This is important because if your food hygiene inspection goes well, then you will end up with a good food hygiene rating.

Over the years, I’ve seen food businesses end up with a low rating in circumstances where it was very preventable had they known how to approach the inspection.

Here I’m going to share my top tips so that you can nail your food hygiene inspection.

1. Be prepared

I cannot emphasise this enough. Preparation is key. A food hygiene inspection doesn’t need to be a nasty surprise. It’s actually quite easy to prepare for one and know the key things that the EHO will look at. There’s no secret formula.

I’ve actually created a free e-book and 50 point inspection checklist to help you. You can download it here.

'How to get your 5-Star Food Hygiene Rating' E-book Course

Make sure you and your team are trained in food safety. Make sure that your food safety paperwork is available, easy to locate, up to date and completed. The EHO is definitely going to want to look at your paperwork and records so make sure you can locate them quickly.

2. Don’t panic

Don’t panic! Remain calm.

I’ve seen staff go to pieces during a food hygiene inspection. I know it can be nerve racking, but this is your opportunity to demonstrate what you know and how you work in practice. If you panic, you are likely to forget things that you know or do something you wouldn’t normally do. Let’s face it, it happens to us all when we feel we’re under pressure or scrutiny.

Despite the misconception that an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) visit is designed to ‘catch you out’, this is not the case. EHO’s are there to ensure you are complying with food safety regulations with the ultimate goal being to protect the public.

If you deal with the EHO in the right way, they will be able to work with you and they will also be able to give you advice on areas where you could improve. And trust me, it’s going to make the inspection go much smoother.

So, when the EHO turns up, take a deep breath and be ready to show them everything you know.

3. Be welcoming

Welcome the EHO with a positive, friendly attitude just as you would with your customers. Although it may not seem like it, they are human too! First impressions are very important and you want the EHO to have confidence in your business as soon as they arrive.

I’ve had staff acting cagey or totally ignoring me during an inspection. This sort of behaviour raises suspicion. I would start to wonder whether the business has something to hide. In my experience, businesses who were open and welcoming generally had good standards of food hygiene which they were proud to showcase.

Ask politely to see their ID. This is important to make sure they are genuine and not an impersonator. If you have any suspicions at all you can always call the local authority to verify the person’s identity.

You can ask them if they would like a drink, to be polite, but in my experience most won’t accept.

An EHO is a person at the end of the day, doing a job just like you, so make conversation, be friendly and open. In my experience, this makes the inspection a much smoother and calmer experience for all involved.

4. Be organised

Have your food safety management system and food safety records available. Let the EHO know that they can see anything else that they need. They may decide to look at your paperwork straight away or at the end of the inspection. Either way, they will have confidence that you are able to locate your food safety systems quickly.

For me, this says that it is clearly a working document and that’s exactly how it should be. On the other hand, alarm bells start ringing if no one knows where the paperwork is or if I get shown records that are from months ago.

5. Be confident

Ensure that whoever accompanies the EHO around knows how to approach a food hygiene inspection and what to expect. They should also be confident, polite and able to use their initiative.

The EHO will be looking at what is happening in practice in the kitchen. Such as are food handlers following the correct hand washing technique. They will also look at your food safety paperwork.

Often, I see food businesses fall down on the simple things because people start to panic. For example; there have been occasions where I have turned up to do an inspection, the staff have panicked and rushed to get food put into the fridge. This has meant that in the haste, raw meat has been thrown into the fridge next to cooked food.

The result is cross-contamination and the consequence of staff forgetting simple things like this, has an impact on the overall food hygiene rating.

Make sure all of your staff know exactly what to do when the EHO turns up. In most situations, this will be to carry on working as normal.

6. Involve other staff

It can be a daunting for staff when the EHO turns up. It can help if you take a moment to introduce them to your colleagues. This can help to calm any nerves. It also signals to the EHO that you’re taking their visit seriously.

During the visit, involve your staff by inviting them to provide information to the EHO or answer questions posed by the EHO. This not only helps your staff gain confidence, it signals to the EHO that the business takes food safety seriously.

7. Ask questions

The inspection is also your opportunity to ask questions as part of the continual improvement of the business. In my experience, EHOs are happy to answer relevant questions and provide support and advice where they can. This also signals to the EHO that you take food safety seriously and are looking to continually improve your standards.

To show that you take food safety seriously, it is good to ask for more feedback on areas which you could improve and also on the areas where you’re doing well. You can even ask for more information on the food hygiene rating scheme and how the scoring is calculated.

8. Pay close attention to feedback

Pay close attention to feedback provided throughout the visit. I would recommend taking notes of anything the EHO mentions/ any areas that require improvement.

If you are unsure whether something is a recommendation or a legal requirement under food safety laws, politely ask for clarification.

In most cases, the EHO will write down any actions you need to take on a visit form. They will either leave a copy with you or they may send a letter. They will normally make it clear whether something is a recommendation or required by law. But if you are unsure, make sure you check with them.

9. Take notes and summarise

There can be a lot of information to take in, so it’s very important you have a way of remembering accurately what occurred. Therefore, I would recommend that whoever accompanies the EHO on their visit, takes notes as they are going around.

In the unlikely event that you should need to contest something later, detailed notes will give you a record of what occurred.

Whenever I have seen a staff member of manager taking notes during an inspection, this has signalled to me that they are taking the inspection seriously and are really passionate about doing things right.

At the end of the visit, refer to your notes and tell the EHO exactly what you plan to do and when you plan to do it. You should also check that they are satisfied with your action plan and timescales. This will make you that you are on the same page before they leave. This again signals how seriously you are taking things.

10. Take action

If there are things that the EHO has said require attention, specifically those items that are required by law, make sure you take action and within the timescales set. This is important because depending on the items, the EHO may conduct a revisit to check. If you have failed to do what was necessary, this could affect the EHO’s ‘confidence in management’ and this could actually impact your next food hygiene rating.

HOW TO GET YOUR

5 STAR RATING

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

FREE EBOOK!

“How to get your 5-star food hygiene rating.”

Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

Includes a 50-point inspection checklist!

Learn what the officer will be inspecting and achieve the top Food Hygiene Rating for your business.

Here's how I can help you

Get food safety training from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). 

This is the UK’s first self-taught, online Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene course for Catering that is created and taught by EHO, Natalie Stanton. There are no PowerPoint slides and no monotonous voiceover. In only 2 hours, Natalie guides you through the key aspects of food safety in 13 short, pre-recorded videos.