Friday, 21 December 2012

Ace Your Inspection from an Environmental Health Officer

Christmas Comes But Once A Year – and indeed a visit from your local Environmental Health Officer can come round as quickly. If however, the thought of your EHO’s next visit doesn’t exactly fill you with festive cheer, you’re not on your own.

The stress of EHO visits came second in the Top 10 causes of concern in the Safer Food Group’s March 2011 survey of independent caterers.  (71% voted this as a major headache, with only worries over rising costs scoring higher). Here’s our guide to reducing the stress of your next EHO visit, to being prepared and maybe even how to gain a business benefit or two from the occasion.

What is your EHO actually doing there?
First thing to tackle is what’s your EHO actually going to look at on the visit, and best can you prepare for a positive and straightforward inspection. Having met with several EHO’s in the past from various regions we have put together our Top 10 priority inspection points that an EHO will be looking for on their visit.

EHOs Top 10 inspection points:
1.       Are the premises really clean throughout? (first impressions really do count)
2.       Do you have hand washing stations & evidence of their use?
3.       Are you all observing correct working hygiene practises?
4.       Are there any signs of pests? (mice, rats, insects etc)?
5.       Are you observing correct stock control?
6.       Are you preparing, cooking and storing correctly?
7.       Do you have a Food Safety Management System?
8.       Have you identified your Critical Control Points?
9.       Have you prepared a list of questions to asking during your de-brief?
10.   Have you received practical advice on how to improve star rating?

If you’re not fully familiar with all these points, don’t worry. Contrary to the popular myth, your EHO is no ogre.  If in doubt, ask.  Here’s our quick guide to the potential business benefits of an open and honest partnership with your EHO.

6 benefits of an improved working relationship with your EHO:

1.       Potential improvement in your Food Hygiene Rating
2.       Public recognition of your standards, PR & commercial opportunities
3.       Free advice on reducing food waste and other efficiencies
4.       Reduced likelihood of food poisoning affecting your customers
5.       Reduced threat to your livelihood caused by an outbreak and closure notice
6.       Increased confidence in you, leading to potentially reduced visit frequency

Your next EHO visit doesn’t need to be headache, these days it’s all about being open and honest.  If you have a concern, share it with your EHO and you’ll get the advice and help to put it right. If you know what they are likely to want to look at, you can be prepared, and the chances of a nasty surprise are much reduced.

Have a safe and happy Christmas

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Top 10 EHO Food Safety Points

10 EHO Safety Points, 5 Questions to Test Your Food Hygiene Knowledge and a Partridge in a Pear Sauce

At the end of every year comes a time of reflection, taking stock and then moving forward into a New Year full of new promises and plans. You’re about to launch into another busy festive season and unfortunately for you, now is not the time to sit back and relax. Food safety is one of those things, like insurance or healthcare, that’s not a priority until something goes wrong. Then all of a sudden it’s the most important thing in the world.

So to act as reminder of what you should be doing and the positive business impact of following good practice in safeguarding your business and helping become more profitable, we’ve produced a Top 10 checklist, plus a game of True or False.  Let’s see how well you’ve done in 2012 when it comes to food safety matters.

Top 10 EHO Food Safety Points for running a ‘tight ship’
Here’s your top 10 food hygiene checklist pulled together from EHOs. Score your own business and see how you get on:

·         Are all your staff aware of (and sticking to) the correct working hygiene practises?
·         Do you have a robust & documented Food Safety Management System?
·         Are your systems built on HACCP principles? (Hazard, Analysis, Critical Control Points)
·         Are staff trained to appropriate level? (ideally Level 2 Food Handler Certificate)
·         Do you have a cleaning schedule showing what to clean, who cleans, and when?
·         Are you aware of the imminent changes to food labelling (new ‘use by’ rules)?
·         Do you routinely use probe thermometers to check food temperatures?
·         Are staff aware of the Danger Zone temperatures & times?
·         Are you displaying your food hygiene inspection rating in your premises?
·         Have all the foods that you produce been included in your food safety management system?

Confident that you’ve got these more or less covered?  Now let’s test your knowledge with a quick game of Fact or Fiction. Be careful, we’ve included a couple of tricky ones...

1.       True or FalseWhile it’s advisable to follow HACCP Principles, very small catering businesses including mobile catering vans can opt-out of having a full documented Food Safety Management System”.
2.       True or FalseThe only definite way to kill all bacteria is to cook an item above 82 degrees for 2 minutes, or deep freeze an item below -10 degrees.”
3.       True or False You need a special licence/permission to use a Wooden chopping board”.
4.       True or False “Day care nurseries & care homes are not covered by food safety law because they don’t actually sell the food, it’s given away as part of a wider offering”.
5.       True or False “You can be fined up to £5,000 for a serious or persistent food hygiene failure in your business.”

True or False Answers...

Answer 1 – False. It doesn’t matter how small your business, it still needs an FSMS that incorporates HACCP Principles, You could be visited by an EHO anywhere, yes even the burger van on the car boot sale.  And your system is not up to date you’re going to be in trouble.

Answer 2 – False.  While it’s true that 75 degrees for 2 minutes is the correct guideline for cooking, this will still not kill ALL bacteria, it will just reduce it to a safe level. Similarly, freezing doesn’t kill all bacteria; it just slows its growth.

Answer 3 – True. Colour coded chopping boards are recommended. Wood can only be used for a “butchers block” and you will need a special licence.

Answer 4 – False.  Regardless of whether you’re selling the food or giving it away, the same Food Hygiene legislation applies.  It’s as simple as that.

Answer 5 – False.  Actually, the fines can be way higher than this. Food Handler staff can receive £5,000 fines and 6 month prison sentence. Supervisor/owners can be fined £20,000 and up to 2 years in prison. In exceptional circumstances fines have recently exceeded £1million.

How did you score?
How did you score in these two tests? The point is that what’s good for customer (safe food) is good for the business.  The points made if followed will actually help your business run more efficiently and will safe guarding your reputation.

Every successful business reviews any problems and adapts to changes facing it. Analysis and evolvement are vital to stay ahead in the world of catering and hospitality. So by all means take a glance over your shoulder, list the highs and lows and have good look at where you excelled, where you slipped up and where you would like to be. Set goals and plan’s the start of a resolution!

And a partridge in a pear sauce???

Have a Safe and Successful Christmas

The Safer Food Group Team