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Food safety inspection: the most common non-conformances

A food safety inspection is something that all business owners and managers dread. However, being prepared with policies and well-trained staff can take some of the stress away and help you fly through an inspection, whether planned or unannounced.

We have asked our Food Safety Consultants what things are most often picked up by EHOs.

1. Paper-work and Management Systems

Like it or not paperwork comes hand-in-hand with running a business. It is key to keep your paperwork up-to-date. EHOs often find that systems do not cover all current working practices that are carried out on-site or are too generic.

Top Tip

Set an annual review date for all management systems, such as Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) and Health and Safety Management Systems (HSMS) to be reviewed by Senior Management and check that all current working practices are included in documentation.

2. Cleaning

We all know that having a clean kitchen is one of the number one factors for food safety. However, according to our food safety consultants' the devil is in the detail, with these areas often being forgotten:

  • Seals for chillers and freezers, damage to seals are also a common hygiene issue.

  • Food spillage and debris under moveable equipment, such as chillers.

  • Extractor hood not being serviced and deep cleaned. This should be cleaned by an external contractor at least annually.

Top Tip

Ensure cleaning of chillers, freezer seals and under moveable equipment are included within your cleaning schedules. These should be signed off and verified by management as being cleaned.

3. Probes

During your food safety inspection the EHO will look at your equipment to ensure it is fit for purpose and is being used and cleaned correctly. It is important to show that you use different probes to check temperatures for raw and cooked food, and do not use the same as this will cause cross-contamination and the spread of harmful bacteria.

Top Tip

To save confusion, label your probes “raw” and “cooked” to ensure that the correct one is used. Do not rely on knowing which is which; a EHO will not find this acceptable. Always have sanitiser wipes available to sanitise the probes, and please check that they are in date.

4. Allergens

This is a hot topic within the hospitality industry at the moment; miss management of allergen food can have life-threatening outcomes for some customers. An Allergen matrix that does not reflect the current menu, zero signage or allergen notice displayed, and cross contamination occurring in the kitchen are all things that an EHO will heavily penalise you on.

Top Tips

  • It is vital to check and make any necessary amendments to your allergens matrix after every menu change, including an issue date on the bottom of the sheet can help manage documents.

  • Include an allergen notice on the bottom of your menu and/or signage at the till.

  • Try to avoid making “free from” claims, if this is not possible use specially labelled equipment to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Check out blog on how to become an allergy-friendly restaurant

5. Pest control

Signs that there are pests on your premises are a sure-fire way to get your business temporarily closed. EHOs will not act kindly if they find old droppings that have not been swept away or recommendations from pest controllers that have not been actioned.

Top Tips

Immediately review, act and sign off on any recommendations from pest controllers. Ensure that all areas of your site are kept clear and clean, this should be included in your cleaning schedules with regular “deep” cleans taking place.

6. Staff

EHOs often comment on the lack of evidence that employees have received the proper food safety training.

Top Tips

Ensure each staff member receives that correct level of training and that a copy of all certificates are kept on file. All staff that handle food should be trained to at least level 2 or comprehensive in-house training, with owners, managers, and head chefs holding a level 3 certificate.

7. Working practices

You can have the most comprehensive and organised paperwork however, if the day-to-day operations are not up to standard you will not receive your 5-star rating in your inspection. Some of the common pitfalls include:

  • Inadequate date labelling of products. It is best practice to label anything that has been opened or decanted from the original container, even sauces and spices.

  • No signage by the hand wash sink. A simple blue hand wash sign by each sink will prevent this being flagged as an issue.

  • Staff storing their belongings on top of dry goods is a big no-no. There should be a dedicated area where staff can store their belongings away from food. If there is no space for this, then belongings should be kept in containers labelled 'storage'.

  • Only one vacuum packer is used for both raw and cooked meats; this will cause cross-contamination. Instead, two vacuum packers should be used, one labelled 'raw' and the other labelled 'cooked'.

Need to improve your hygiene rating?

Did you know that Hubl is not “just” a food safety software company? We started out as a food safety consultancy business. We provide a full range of consultancy services to support you with all your Food Safety and Health & Safety needs. Ranging from creating FSMS for you, Food Hygiene audit and report, food safety staff training and helpline service.


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