The EHO has just walked in- what should you do?

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Have you ever been in a situation where you’re happily going about your day, and suddenly someone walks in, and everything changes? That’s the feeling of dread that comes over you when you hear the words, “The EHO’s just walked in.” For those who don’t know, EHO stands for Environmental Health Officer, and their presence is often met with fear and trepidation, especially in the food industry.

Fear not, in this blog, we’ll go through what you should do when an EHO walks in, how to deal with them and how to get the best food hygiene rating possible.

The role of the EHO

The role of an EHO is to protect public health by enforcing regulations and standards relating to food safety. They have the power to inspect premises, take samples, serve enforcement notices or even prosecute businesses that fail to comply with regulations.

So, why do people dread the arrival of an EHO? The answer is simple: an EHO’s visit can make or break a business. A poor rating can lead to lost customers and a damaged reputation. EHOs have the power to close a business.

On the other hand, for a business that is committed to high food safety standards a visit from an EHO can mean a good food hygiene rating that will bring in more customers, boost staff morale, and demonstrate a commitment to quality and safety.

The problem is that the standards required by EHOs can be perceived as complex and difficult to navigate. It’s not enough to simply have clean premises and good food hygiene practices; businesses must also comply with a range of requirements relating to temperature control, allergen management, pest control, waste disposal, and more. It’s a lot to keep on top of, especially for small businesses with limited resources. It is also important that staff are trained in food safety and also how to deal with the EHO during an inspection.

Preparation is key

Food safety should always be a top priority for any food establishment. If you are running a business you should make sure that your staff are trained to produce safe food. This includes following strict food safety procedures, storing and cooking food correctly and ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection procedures are followed.

It’s crucial to prepare for an EHO visit in advance. The key is to have a robust food safety management system in place that covers all aspects of the business’s operations. This should include regular staff training, documented procedures, and record-keeping. It’s also important to keep up-to-date with the latest regulations and guidance from the relevant authorities, such as the Food Standards Agency.

You should also ensure that your staff are trained in how to deal with an EHO visit. If you are not on the premises your staff need to be confident in what to do; this can make all the difference to the outcome of the inspection!

What to do when the EHO walks in

When an EHO does walk in, it’s important to remain calm and professional. Greet them politely and ask them to identify themselves. The EHO will usually carry an ID badge or warrant card. Ask to see this so you can confirm their identity.

Once you’ve established who they are, it’s important to cooperate fully with them during the inspection. This means answering any questions they may have truthfully and providing any documentation they request promptly. It is also important to give them access to all areas of your food establishment, including storage areas and kitchens.

Be open and honest about any issues you’re aware of and demonstrate that you’re taking steps to address them. Don’t argue or make excuses, instead, listen to their advice.

During the inspection, the EHO will be looking for any potential food safety hazards. This could include things like cross-contamination, incorrect food storage, out-of-date food, or inadequate cleaning procedures. If the EHO identifies any issues, it’s important to address them as soon as possible.

What not to do when dealing with the EHO

When it comes to dealing with the EHO, there are a few things you should avoid doing. Firstly, don’t try to hide anything from them and don’t be dishonest in any way. This will only make the situation worse and could result in legal action being taken against you or your staff.

It is important not to argue with the EHO or become confrontational in any way. Remember the EHO is there to help ensure that the food you serve is safe for your customers. Any issues they identify are for the benefit of everyone.

What to do if your business receives a poor rating

If the worst happens, and your business receives a poor rating, it’s important to take it seriously. Don’t ignore the issues or try to sweep them under the carpet; instead, use the report as a learning opportunity. Identify the areas that need improvement and take steps to address them. If you are unsure on any of the matters identified in the report, make sure you clarify these with the EHO.

If you do not get the rating you hoped for, you have a few options:

  • Where you do not believe the food hygiene rating given reflects the standards in place at the time of the inspection you have the right to appeal the rating within 21 days.
  • If you agree with the rating but there may have been some unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection that led to the low rating, or you have improved standards since, you have the right to reply. This means your response will be published online next to your rating.
  • When you have made improvements and would like to improve your rating you can apply for a re-rating visit.

To find out more about the food hygiene rating scheme and your options if you do not get the rating you hoped for check out my blog ‘What are food hygiene ratings? Your questions answered’.

Summary

In summary, the arrival of an EHO can be a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. By being well-prepared, staying calm and professional, ensuring staff are trained in food safety and how to deal with the EHO and taking any issues seriously, businesses can ensure that their EHO visit is a positive experience.

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Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

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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.