How to prepare for your Environmental Health visit.

Firstly, you need to know the extent of your operation.

I can only talk from my own personal experience as a trader where I deal with low-risk food products. Are you using raw meat, eggs freezing and re-heating food? Then you need more specific advice. Speak to other similar traders, scrutinise the latest copy of “Food safety First Principles,” (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and, most importantly, get in touch with your local authority’s Environmental Health Department.

This may well be the most important relationship that you forge as a trader so start that relationship early and become known as someone who asks questions and wants to do their best to improve the services they provide. Their purpose is not simply to find fault and close down, far from it, they want to help all establishments comply with the law and ensure the safety of our customers.

Ideally they will come visit you whilst working but that wasn’t an option in my case and so an officer came to the address where I park my vehicle. Ian, the EHO, was thoroughly pleasant and polite and talked through the whole process putting me at ease immediately. For the next 50 minutes we talked about my procedures and how I run the business on a day-by-day basis, followed by a brief inspection of my vehicle.

Throughout the process I never really felt as though I was being tested, I was simply answering the questions that I was asked honestly and highlighting what I did. If I failed to give the answer that was expected, Paul would ask further questions to ensure that he got all the information he needed. This wasn’t just a test for me, it was an opportunity for me to improve my practices. This man had experienced the very worst as well as the very best food establishments in the county as such, he knew things that I could not. With a few choice questions, this became a learning process for me and provided choice tips that have influenced my future practices.

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In a nutshell, here are the things that I found most useful:

  • I use a cleaning diary that highlights my procedures and how often I carry out the tasks. This was good practice but the detail I was going into was superfluous for an operation of my size. It’s no difficult task so I think I’ll keep it up, plus it will be a great tool should I take on a member of staff.
  • For my wastage I use my local authority bin service. This was deemed as acceptable because my waste is so minimal (approximately a carrier bag full) but you may need to make other arrangements if it’s much more than this.
  • For the cleaning of surfaces you need to use a cleaning fluid that must comply with BS EN 1276 or BS EN 13697. This will be highlighted on the packaging. If not, do NOT buy it.
  • Surfaces need to be cleaned with warm soapy water and then disinfected with the product marked above. Sometimes I can’t use warm soapy water, in that eventuality I double disinfect by simply disinfecting twice.
  • Have a poster of how to wash hands properly by your sink. It helps to remind staff and yourself what you should be doing but also ticks a box for the instructor.
  • Keep the receipts for your stock. You’re probably already doing this for tax purposes but they’ll also provide a trail should there be a problem with any food item.
  • Blue roll is king. Use it, bin it. Hygienic and multi-purpose.
  • Fridge temperature should be below 8 degrees but, due to door openings this can often raise so it’s recommended you aim for 0-5 degrees.
  • Know your allergens. Write them down somewhere handy and refer to them.
  • If you become ill, you’re not coming in to work for 48 hours from the end of your symptoms. Plenty of time for those nasty bugs to disappear for good and there be no chance of you passing anything on.

Anna and Shaun-138

Need further advice? Speak to people who already hold the award and see what they say and don’t be afraid to talk to the EHO’s themselves, it will highlight the extent that you are going to in order to achieve the highest grading.

I’m not going to wish you good luck, you probably already know enough to get the top grade but if you do a little bit of groundwork you’ll be sure of it.

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