As a food business (catering, retail or manufacturing), Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are a part of your enterprise, and if you are curious about who they are and what their responsibilities are, then this guide is for you.
An Environmental Health Officer (EHO) is a certified and trained professional whose primary role is to protect the general public from food and environmental hazards from food businesses. They can also be referred to as Environmental Health Practitioners or Public Health Inspectors.
The common belief is that their inspections only revolve around food hygiene and safety, however, it actually varies. Most EHOs have over 100 different kinds of establishments under their supervision and not just restaurants, hotels and catering vans, but also rented estates, care centres and public properties.
No two days are the same for an EHO; the tasks may even differ within the hour as well, depending on the food business. When hired, their tasks go beyond just risk assessments and also include taking action if they detect hazards or health and safety breaches, and advising the business how to improve accordingly.
Usually, EHOs are hired by the local authority to support food businesses in their area and are assigned supervision tasks when they receive health and safety complaints.
Private and public businesses are both also known to hire EHOs for their expertise, such as manufacturers, health and safety consultancies and the Health and Safety Executive, or public health departments in other countries.
When it comes to regulatory assessments, EHOs have certain powers to ensure they can perform their job when a health and safety breach has been committed.
EHOs have the authority to:
There is no set number of times EHOs will visit your food business. It depends on the type of business and the seriousness of the hazards in your establishment, but there are certain situations that would cause an EHO to visit your business:
Approximately, if your business has frequent hygiene and safety hazards, an EHO will visit you every six months; otherwise, you will get EHO visitations once every two years. If your business had multiple hazard incidents, the EHO will work closely with the business owner and manager and advise them on how to reduce all possible food and environmental risks.
After the EHO inspects your premises, they will give you a rating, which is different across the UK.
In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, EHOs rate food businesses using The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS):
In Scotland, EHOs rate food business based on the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS):
Lastly, if your food business receives an “Awaiting Inspection” certificate, it is to signify that your business has yet to be inspected.
If you would like to see your business’s food hygiene rank, click here.
If your business handles or stores food, an EHO will certainly visit your premises to ensure you comply with the current food laws and regulations. Usually, an EHO will inspect the food that you serve or sell, equipment and documents used in relation to food, and observe your interaction with customers.
To get more specific, these are the areas of your business EHOs will evaluate.
The best way to prepare for an EHO visit is to practise the best hygiene standards at all times at your food business, as an EHO may visit you at any random time. To ensure a smooth visit, maintain accurate, truthful records that detail traceability and prove that all reasonable precautions were taken to ensure food safety, and the present risk alerted by the EHO is a singular incident. All business documents should be kept at the business location and not at the home of the owner(s) or manager(s).
If you are eager to train yourself and your team in proper safe food handling and management, check out ourLevel 2 Food Hygiene and Safety for catering staff,Level 2 HACCP for Catering and Retail,Level 3 Food Safety and Hygiene for supervisors courses andmany more.