What to expect from a food safety inspection

Possible outcomes of a food inspection

Authorised food safety inspectors can take enforcement action against your business in order to protect the public. The inspector should confirm any action you need to take in a written letter and you must be given enough time to put it into effect, unless there is an immediate risk to public health.

During an inspection of your business an inspector can also serve a legal notice. The three main types of notice are:

  • Hygiene improvement notice or food labelling improvement notice - sets out certain things you must do to comply with food law if your business is breaking the law.
  • Hygiene emergency prohibition notice - forbids you to use certain processes, premises or equipment and must be confirmed by a court.
  • Remedial action notice - forbids the use of certain processes, premises or equipment, or imposes conditions on how a process is carried out. It’s similar to a hygiene emergency prohibition notice, but it does not need to be confirmed by a court. This type of notice can be used for any food establishment in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales but can only be applied to approved establishments in England.

It is a criminal offence not to comply with a notice once served.

Inspectors can also recommend a prosecution, in serious cases. If a prosecution is successful, the court may forbid you from using certain processes, premises or equipment, or you could be banned from managing a food business. It could also lead to a fine or imprisonment.