A Food Hygiene inspection can be a needlessly stressful time for restaurant owners. To help you prepare for a visit we have produced a Self-Inspection Checklist which will guide you through the main items the inspector will be looking at. We have broken this down into three areas to focus on.
1. Your Food Safety Management System
2. Food Safety Procedures and Practices
3. Your Premises
Within these we look at the basics that you need to get right, and be able to prove that you are constantly getting them right. The most important thing to remember when doing a self-inspection is that whilst you are there every day and know what is and isn’t done, the inspector is not. You need to be able to prove everything that you do. Think, what procedures do I have in place to record that I have done this?
We would recommend that you do this self-assessment every six months to ensure that you catch any issues with time to correct them before your next inspection.
A good Food Safety System is the core of everything in a food business. This is where your procedures and policy’s for food safety are set out in detail. The inspectors will be looking to see a system based around the idea of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, known as HACCP. This is a way of identifying the places issues are likely to occur and having systems in place to reduce these risks.
You can get a free copy of a Food Safety System designed by the Food Standards Agency here.
A lot of your risk assessments and policies will be kept in here so you should make sure that all of your staff always know where it can be found. Plenty of businesses have scored low on their Food Hygiene Rating, due to inspections happening on the owner or Head Chefs day off and cover staff being unable to find the paperwork.
Regular cleaning is vitally important in any food business. During an inspection the Food Safety Officer will be looking at the cleanliness of the business as they find it. They will also want to see evidence of a specific cleaning policy and schedule so that they can see that the kitchen is constantly maintained at that level. This means having printed cleaning schedules that are signed off as they are done to show that there is accountability.
Temperature is one of the easiest ways to prove you are cooking food to a safe level. By recording your temperatures you show a culture of good care. When recording temperatures there are several safe time and temperature combinations, that is, the length of time you should record the temperature for, which are acceptable, including:
The important thing is that you keep this consistent across all areas to ensure everyone is aware of the system you use. We would recommend you have the temperature/time you use written onto your recording sheets.
Probe thermometers are vital to ensuring food products are safe at every stage of the food production process. Having your probe thermometers correctly calibrated is therefore very important. You should have a process in place to check your probes every morning before starting food preparation, ensuring you record the results each day.
As an employer you have a responsibility to ensure that all of your teams have been trained to complete all of their tasks safely. This means that you must ensure they have adequate training in manual handling and fire safety as well as the food related training such as Food Hygiene and COSSH. There is also an increased focus on allergen training due to several recent high profile news stories where allergies have caused deaths. Having your staff complete allergen training will help towards your “Confidence in Management” score when being inspected. You can find links to recommended training on our Resources Page.
Staff hygiene can be a major issue and is something that you need to constantly be aware of. You should have policies and procedures in place for things, such as Chefs not wearing their uniform until they enter the building, smoking and Hand washing. You should have clear signage around hand wash sinks and at the entrance to food preparation areas and ensure that staff are following the instructions. Nothing erodes an inspector’s confidence like a chef arriving in uniform after you have just spent time showing a contamination policy banning it.
Simply put you must be able to prove everything, and if you are not there, then other people must be able to. Inspectors can ask staff questions about policies that impact their jobs, so they must know the answers or and where to find them.
The Health & Safety Executive say that your first aid requirements must be “adequate and appropriate in the circumstances’” This means that you must provide sufficient first aid equipment facilities and personnel at all times. You can find out more about what you need to do on the HSE website here. Whatever you’re requirements you must be able to show that an assessment has been done, action taken and that it is monitored. If you have trained first aiders then you should prominently display the names of those currently working, and first aid kits should be regularly checked to ensure items have not passed their “Use by Date”. All sterile bandages etc., will have one. These checks need to be recorded at a minimum of every six months, ideally quarterly.
They may ask you about your sickness policy, any staff who deal with food must remain of work for two days after Diarrhoea and/or vomiting. You should record this somewhere secure so you can prove best practice. Due to data handling laws these records should be kept securely locked away with access only to staff who have a need to see or use it.
You will need to prove you are storing items in the correct way. You should have separate, clearly labelled areas for different types of food, allergens and cleaning chemicals to reduce the chance of cross contamination.
You should be using colour coded chopping boards for each area of the kitchen, with appropriate signage to ensure there is not cross contamination. Some businesses go a stage further and colour code whole areas of their kitchen. The important thing is that you can clearly see this is being used whilst looking around the kitchen.
Do your staff defrost correctly? The Food standards Agency state there are three safe methods of defrosting
Items should never be defrosted at room temperature.
Again this is to reduce the chance of cross contamination, areas should be separate with colour coded chopping boards and ideally clearly labelled.
This is a basic one but something people often fail on because they “didn’t realise we had run out”. You should have a procedure in place to ensure you always have sufficient stock of sanitary products such as loo roll.
You have a responsibility to have risk assessments on all potentially dangerous tasks and to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff to reduce those risks. You should always have spares in case of breakages and remember that just handing the equipment out is not enough, you should have staff sign to show they have received it and know how to use it correctly. You have a legal responsibility to ensure they use it.
As discussed above this is to reduce the chance of contamination being brought into the business from outside.
These are classed as PPE so you are responsible for providing and ensuring these are worn. Whilst some businesses may be able to ban beards and long hair in employment contracts to negate this, you should take legal advice if doing do as Hair and bead length can be protected under the Equality Act 2010.
You need to clearly label sinks Handwash Only and ensure staff are using them as such. There should be paper towels or blue kitchen roll availible to dry hands.
Make sure your cleaning schedules are detailed enough that they can see that equipment is moved regularly so that dirt build up does not happen.
You should have procedures in place to reduce the risk of pests becoming an issue. This includes things like having dedicated waste areas, lockable bins and regular cleaning. You should also have regular recorded checks to specifically look for signs of pests. Best practice is to get an external company to do routine visits.
Commercial grade fridges and freezers usually have a built in thermometer so you can record temperature checks regularly, although temperature checks with an external infrared thermometer are acceptable. You should consider getting a permanent solution such as this alarmed thermometer which attaches to your equipment. Prices for thermometers start from as low as £1.70 on Amazon.
Has your equipment been serviced to ensure it is safe to use? Have all gas appliances got a valid Gas safety certificate? It is a legal requirement to have commercial gas equipment checked once a year. Most kitchen servicing firms will do this all at once.
If your business is clean and tidy it makes you look more professional and the inspector will be happier with your business. This includes every area of your business, even storage areas and bin stores that no-one usually sees. Every part of your business should look to a standard where you would happily show a customer.
Hopefully this self-assessment will guide you towards a five star ratings. You can download the guide free from our resources page here.