Food safety

What is EHO & how to prepare for EHO inspection?

An Environmental Health Officer's main job is to ensure that every food business runs up to code and that public health ...


An Environmental Health Officer's main job is to ensure that every food business runs up to code and that public health and the environment are protected from harm.

  • An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) is a food safety professional tasked with implementing and ensuring food safety laws.
  • An EHO inspection visit may be unannounced, routine, or result from a customer's food hygiene complaint.
  • An EHO will give a food hygiene rating score to a food business, representing your business's approach to food safety.

To uphold a strict level of food safety, local and federal authorities exert every effort to ensure that food businesses comply with food safety. Food safety inspections are a common scenario for every food business, and a visit from the environmental health officer (EHO) is something business owners should expect. Inspections represent the role of food safety agencies in reducing the causes of foodborne illnesses and protecting consumers from food malpractice. 

If you have been in the food industry for long enough, you may have already encountered a visit from an EHO. These visits will give you an overview of the team's food handling practices and addresses food safety issues. If your food business is up to standards and follows the Food Law Code of Practice, you have very little to worry about. 

Read this guide to understand the role of an EHO and prepare for your food business's inspection.

 

 

EHO Meaning

EHO means Environmental Health Officer. An EHO is a government-appointed employee tasked to ensure businesses' compliance with environmental codes to protect public health and the environment. 

An EHO can be appointed from a federal, state, or local level to examine businesses. The EHO's task includes ensuring that companies manage their waste and that their activities do not negatively affect the environment and the public. 

 

What does an Environmental Health Officer do?

An Environmental Health Officer's main job is to protect public health from the potential hazards present in their environment. To do this, they perform on-site inspections of businesses. The EHO conducts such inspections to ensure that your business operates based on the approved Food Law Code of Practice.

Under each interpretation of the Food Law Code of Practice in the countries of the UK, EHOs are given powers such as the following:

  • Entry to food establishments
  • Control of premises
  • Sampling

In addition to performing inspections, EHOs are responsible for enforcing hygiene protocols in food businesses. They also offer advice on how to improve your hygiene rating.

EHOs are responsible for several aspects of safety in a community. In addition to inspections, they perform policy-making and implementation, establish critical control measures, promote health literacy, hand legal notices, address consumer complaints of food poisoning, and assess workplace hazards.

 

Environmental Health Officer

 

Role of Environmental Health Officer

An EHO is tasked to inspect the conditions and operations of your food business. They are responsible for ensuring that the following areas of your establishment follow the essential food safety regulations:

  • Hygienic food handling
  • Condition and layout of buildings (e.g., cleanliness of facilities, type of material used, and ventilation)
  • Food safety management system in place

An EHO is also tasked to write an inspection report about the findings in your food establishment. The report is a summary of your establishment's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to addressing food safety compliance. 

Based on the report written by the EHO, you will be given a food hygiene rating score of 1 to 5 that reflects your food safety status. In the United Kingdom, this food safety rating sticker is encouraged or mandated to be posted on visible areas of your store for customers to see. This means that your performance on food safety will significantly affect how the customers will see your food business.

 

Who appoints Environmental Health Officers?

Under the individual interpretations of the Food Law Code of Practice in the countries of the UK, local authorities are given the responsibility of appointing Environmental Health Officers.

Individuals appointed to become an EHO are selected based on their credentials and extensiveness on environmental and basic food hygiene issues. At a minimum, an EHO must have a degree in environmental health that is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health. This applies to England, Northern Ireland and Wales

 

What is EHO inspection?

An EHO inspection is an on-site assessment of how your food business follows the food safety code of practice. An accredited EHO inspector conducts itAn EHO inspection can be announced in advance or suddenly without any notice. In addition, an inspection may result from a product complaint related to your food business.

In general, the frequency of an inspection is based on the assessed risk level of your operations. High-risk businesses can expect an inspection every six months, whereas a very low-risk food establishment can sometimes be only inspected every three years. 

The EHO inspection will become the basis for your food hygiene rating. The inspection is a legal duty carried out by the EHO, and food businesses must comply accordingly.

The purpose of an EHO inspection is to ensure that your food establishment is working toward the maintenance of public safety. If anything is not in place, the inspection will reveal your lapses, and the EHO will give you pointers to correct them.

The EHO inspection is not an activity that aims to close down your business but rather one that is made to improve it.

 

FoodDocs food safety system-1

 

What do EHOs evaluate in your business?

EHO inspections are meticulous assessments of your food hygiene status, handling practices, and construction of your establishment. During the inspection, the EHO will observe how you operate your food business and take notes of the state of your premises.

In general, an EHO inspection aims to evaluate three main areas of your food business operations:

  1. Food handling practices
    • Handling, cooking, preparing, reheating, and storing foods
    • Employee training
    • Preventive control in place
  2. Establishment premises and environment
    • Cleaning schedule
    • The maintenance schedule for food equipment
    • Basic requirements for temperature control
    • Layout and design of your facility
  3. Food safety management
    • The extensiveness of your Food Safety Management System (FSMS)
    • Accuracy of monitoring

Under these major areas, more specific practices will be inspected by the EHO. The objective of the inspection is to ensure that your food business follows food safety legislation. 

 

EHO checklist for inspection

As we have mentioned, an EHO inspection can happen even without any prior notice. Your EHO can pop out in front of your food establishment door and request to enter. If this happens to you, your food safety team must always be ready.

To help you score a high rating during any visual inspection from an EHO, here is an EHO visit checklist of requirements that you need to always do: 

  • Food handling and basic kitchen hygiene rules
    • Foods are stored in the correct order and temperature.
    • Storage temperature is regularly monitored.
    • Foods are labelled properly.
    • Separate utensils and chopping boards are used for preparing foods.
    • Food handlers follow correct hand washing procedures and follow good personal hygiene practices.
    • Foods must always be cooked to the correct internal temperature.
    • Monitoring records are organized.
  • Business premises
    • Walls, floors, and ceilings are made out of easily cleanable materials and will not harbour dirt.
    • Basin for washing hands is present.
    • Pest control measures and a waste management system are in place.
    • All lighting and other fixtures are well-maintained.
    • Food handlers follow the cleaning process schedule.
    • All equipment and measuring tools are calibrated.
  • Food safety management
    • Appropriate monitoring procedures and forms are in place for each food safety operation.
    • Checklists and schedules are followed and documented.
    • Adequate food hygiene training for employees is complete and regularly refreshed.

EHO checklist

 

All of these items under the EHO inspection checklist can be easily checked using our digital Food Safety Management System. With our digital solution, food handlers will receive regular alerts to perform particular food safety operations. This feature can be paired with our automatically generated food safety monitoring forms to save time.

In addition, our digital solution also provides a real-time dashboard for managers. This feature can help you manage your operations remotely and save at least 20% of your time. Immediately identify which areas need more attention with this dashboard.

 

Which notice can be served by an Environmental Health Officer?

If an EHO finds anything significantly unsatisfactory that can put consumer health at risk, they are entitled to provide legal notice to your food safety team. Legal notices are a part of food safety laws that ensure the correction of any potentially hazardous aspect of your food business.

Hygiene Improvement Notice. This notice is provided if an establishment was observed to have significant issues in the food preparation area or breached food hygiene rules. At most, your team will be given 14 days to address the concerns, or shorter if the issue poses an imminent risk to consumer health. Failure to comply with the necessary adjustments can lead to fines or a revoked food business license.

Emergency Prohibition Procedure. An EHO serves a prohibition notice if they believe that your operations, or at least a part of your operations, contribute to increasing the risk of causing injury or harm. This notice requires your team to stop the involved process until you have applied the solutions.

Seizure and Detention Notice. This notice is served to contain any type of food that may not have met the current requirements for safe food production imposed by the ruling country. Upon inspection of human foods and observation that it does not comply with the national food safety regulations, the EHO reserves the right to hold the products until appropriate resolutions are presented.

Notices served by an EHO aim to minimize the potential risk of non-compliances on the food you produce. It is also the job of an EHO to ensure that the observed issues are resolved before lifting the notice. Disregarding served notice may lead to the permanent closure of your business or other legal actions from the EHO.

food workers checking EHO inspection checklist

When can an Environmental Health Officer visit?

An EHO visit can occur at any reasonable time during your working week. The EHO is not obligated to provide you with an advanced notice regarding their visit. The main purpose of an EHO visit is to give you a rating on your food safety performance.

Every food business is legally mandated to escort the EHO and accommodate them to conduct the inspection. It is considered a criminal offence to decline an EHO during inspection. 

Some of the most common reasons for an EHO visit may include:

  • Routine inspection
  • Customers recently filed a complaint against your establishment
  • Random check-in
  • Follow-up from a recent inspection where you received a bad rating
  • Initial inspection for newly opened restaurants

 

How often do EHOs visit?

In addition to the mentioned reasons for an EHO visit, the frequency of routine checks may vary depending on the risk level of your food business. According to the Food Law Code of Practice, food businesses are categorized and inspected according to the following classifications:

A - every six months (high-risk)

B - every 12 months

C - every 18 months

D - every two years

E - every three years (low-risk)

These suggested frequencies of visits may vary in case of emergencies or urgent complaints related to your food business. An EHO will conduct an immediate inspection if you have been recently tagged in a customer complaint or a potential carrier of illegal products.

 

What happens if you fail an inspection?

After an inspection, the EHO will provide a comprehensive report on how you handle foods and the state of your commercial premises. The report will highlight both the positive and negative areas of your operations. 

If you receive an unsatisfactory score or a bad hygiene score, the EHO will provide an explanation of the report and an appropriate solution for your team. Depending on the urgency and the potential severity of the hazard that the non-conformance may cause. The follow-up inspection can be as soon as after seven days for urgent concerns and up to 30 days for minor non-compliances.

For more severe shortcomings, an EHO may serve your team with an appropriate notice that may forcibly stop a section of your food business. You must address the concerns and document the actions taken to lift the notice.

 

What can you do if you do not agree with the results of the inspection?

Inspections conducted by an EHO may work both ways. That is, if you are unhappy with the result of the inspection or if you do not agree with it, appropriate food laws provide you with the power to file an appeal against the result.

The appeals procedure may be for the FHRS given to your food business or if you disagree with a piece of advice given by the inspector. A part of the appeal includes an in-depth discussion with the inspector. You can file a formal appeal to your local authority if this does not resolve the case. 

 

health inspector meeting with chef

 

Getting ready for EHO with FoodDocs

In the UK, having a HACCP plan is a known legal requirement. It requires teams to create a plan to prevent and address potential health hazards. In addition, food businesses must continue to strive for food safety compliance by implementing a strict food safety management system. FoodDocs has covered both: HACCP Plan and your HACCP-based FSMS. 

A comprehensive FSMS can help you score great during an EHO inspection. It is one of the critical factors in getting a high score. Food safety management systems make compliance with food laws easier and more efficient. Despite this, the traditional way of making a HACCP plan and monitoring foods won't make it in the fast-paced food industry nowadays.

In today's time, you must always be ready whether there is an EHO inspection. As such, your food safety management system must also be flexible enough to apply quick changes. A traditional, paper-based FSMS and HACCP plan would take days for you to apply changes in preparation for an inspection or the suggestions from your EHO.

With our digital solutions at FoodDocs, you can achieve compliance and maintain it effortlessly. With the help of artificial intelligence, our team has developed digital solutions to make compliance with food hygiene laws 500x faster. All you need to do is answer questions describing your type of business, and our system will compile the food safety documents and monitoring sheets for you.

 

When you try our services, you can get the following benefits:

  • Get a comprehensive digital HACCP plan with all the important components with a detailed analysis of all hazards, risk assessments, and control points in your system.

  • Using our customisable HACCP template, you can easily share your digital HACCP plan with your EHO inspector and save yourselves time from flicking through several papers.

  • Our digital HACCP plan system accommodates customizations and revisions, which can help you effortlessly apply suggestions from your EHO inspector.

In addition to HACCP plan benefits, we also offer a digital Food Safety Management System product that can help you maintain food safety compliance at all times.

  • With our digital FSMS, you can get automatically generated monitoring logs and checklists that are essential for any type of business in an average of 15 minutes. These logs and checklists can help you with any food hygiene inspection at any time of the day.

  • Our monitoring logs are equipped with detailed instructions on performing a monitoring activity. This feature can help make onboarding and training processes easier for food safety managers.

Master_sanitation_schedule

Master Sanitation Schedule from FoodDocs

 

  • Our system is equipped with a smart notification system that you can use to remind employees of safe food practices that need to be done. With this feature, you will be ensured that all food hygiene concerns are addressed on time.

  • To help you manage your everyday operations, our system also offers a real-time food safety dashboard. You can get an overview of your daily operations and easily identify areas that need more attention.

  • For food safety documentation, our digital solution offers cloud-based storage where you can store all of your digital documents, such as certificates, employee training records, previous inspection reports, and other essential documents, in one place. 

 

With our digital solutions, scoring a 5-star food hygiene rating will always be easy. It does not matter if you do not have prior knowledge of food safety and hygiene laws, as our system can help you comply with all food safety standards.

An EHO inspection does not have to be daunting if you are always prepared for it. With our digital HACCP plan builder, you can start your food hygiene standard compliance as soon as you open your stores. In addition, you can ensure continuing food safety compliance with our digital FSMS and satisfy the food hygiene rating scheme for every inspection.

Join our list of more than 20,000 customers enjoying food safety compliance worldwide. Do you have an upcoming inspection on schedule? You can use our services for free with our 14-day trial and experience how our solutions can help you get an excellent score.

 

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