Advice from Sandy Cox, Health and Safety Consultant at Risk Management Services Limited, NFU Mutual
AS PART OF A PROPER FOOD HYGIENE STRATEGY, THE FOLLOWING TIPS COULD HELP TO ACHIEVE A BETTER RATING:
- Concentrate on those areas that you can influence easily and quickly, for example improving food hygiene and safety procedures and practices. The second part of your focus should be the structure of your premises, for example cleanliness, layout, condition and lighting. If the structure is a bit tired and the layout difficult to change – make up for this as much as possible by ensuring good cleaning and flow of product, for example.
- When setting up a new business – make sure you seek advice and request an advisory visit, and register your business with your local authority in good time for an initial inspection.
- Ensure that all employees are suitably trained in proper food hygiene methods, and that you keep ongoing records as proof of the care you take to keep food safe. Training employees to keep records can help to share the load and ensure that everything is logged.
- Keep all records such as cooking and temperature control, pest control, training records and the Food Standards Agency’s Safer Food, Better Business packs up to date and legible. Make sure the records are legitimate, that they are kept in a safe and easily accessible place, and that no-one completes records in advance for whatever reason.
- Make sure that there are no risks of cross contamination between raw foods and ‘ready to eat’ food. Remember that raw food is not just raw meat or raw fish, but unwashed veg too. If you haven’t considered and applied correct separation procedures, or have the correct British Standard chemical and know the correct usage, then you are likely to get a food hygiene rating of 2. Full E. coli guidance can be found at www.food.gov. uk/business-industry/guidancenotes/hygguid/ecoliguide
- Make sure that you or a manager accompany the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) on their visit and ask them to summarise their findings at the end. Make sure that you follow through with any required actions – the EHO will assess you on compliance (confidence in management). Update the Officer on what you have done to make changes before the next inspection, rather than leaving it until the next time they visit.
- Ensure that you understand the difference between the Food Establishment Intervention Rating Schemes and the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme (FHRS). The first is used by the EHO to give your business a score that is used to determine the risk of the business and the frequency of inspection and in turn used to determine the FHRS. The lower the score the better. The FHRS is then scored out of five, and the higher the score the better. At the moment in England it is your choice if you display this result for your customers to see, whereas in Wales and Northern Ireland display in a prominent place is mandatory. In Scotland the Food Safety Information Scheme gives you a Pass or Fail.
- If you are a member of NCASS (Nationwide Caterers Association), be aware of the Primary Authority Partnership that they have, and tell the EHO when they visit (although they may have this information already) as you may have adopted their ‘Due Diligence System’ . This partnership scheme only covers England and Wales and may be taken account of in Scotland, but has no legal standing. Larger companies may also have a Primary Authority Partnership with a particular Local Authority (LA) and then all EHOs must take heed of this. It helps to improve consistency across businesses, particularly where they have the same type of outlet in lots of different places. The scoring schemes have lots of guidance for the EHO to follow, but the scoring can still be open to interpretation and different people or local authorities may score differently.
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