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If you are running a food business from home, whether as a sideline or as your main source of income, you will still need to prove that your home kitchen fully complies with environmental standards and food safety. This means that you will have to undertake an environmental health home kitchen inspection. This will be carried out by an Environmental Health officer (EHO) in your own kitchen in the same way as is carried out in any other commercial food business.
Home food businesses can vary a great deal. You may make cakes, pickles or any other kind of food that can be sold over a counter. Alternatively you may be running a takeaway or providing catering to parties in clients’ own homes. Whatever the type of business you run, a food hygiene inspection is important because it ensures that your customers are safe and that you are running your kitchen at the same safe standards as any other food business.
The EHO visit may seem like a daunting prospect. You will need to show that you are running your kitchen both safely and legally. You will need to show you have the relevant paperwork such as your HACCP documents, and there is a checklist of requirements that your EHO will want to see. Making sure that you are fully prepared in advance and have ticked off all points on the food hygiene inspection checklist will help your EHO visit go well.
What is an EHO?
An environmental health officer is responsible for maintaining public health so their role is wide and varied covering everything from waste management to accidents at work and pest control. They are also crucial to the food industry because they ensure that food is stored and prepared correctly and that it is fit for consumption.
In the catering industry, an EHO will look at all aspects of food production and food hygiene in order to ensure that everything is safe and hygienic from the way that the food is prepared to waste disposal.
What is a home inspection by an EHO?
All UK businesses are subject to food hygiene laws enforced by local authorities via the environmental health officer. We have covered this in a previous article regarding commercial premises such as restaurants, cafes and burger vans.
However, whether you are working from home or own a fancy restaurant, the basic requirements are the same. These are that you are carrying out food operations legally and safely.
A home inspection by an EHO will look at three key areas.
- Food Hygiene and Safety Procedures.
- Structural Requirements – The condition of the premises and your equipment.
- Confidence in Management – The way you manage your business and your paperwork.
The EHO can visit at any time so you should always maintain high standards. If you fail to comply with standards you will need to make changes until your operation is up to scratch.
How can I prepare for an EHO home kitchen visit?
Your EHO will carry out a comprehensive check of your premises and your paperwork, so it is important to ensure that you are ready to meet this demanding criteria.
It is important to remember that the EHO wants to know that you always follow the correct safety and hygiene procedures on the days that you are not being visited, so he or she will want to see records that will prove it.
First up you will need to register your business with the local authority and be able to show the certificate to the EHO.
In addition, you will need to show any food safety documentation such as your HACCP documents. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point is a system for managing food safety hazards. It is a requirement of the food industry to provide documentation and checklists such as cleaning records.
You can sign up for your HACCP account via the Food Standards Agency website and print or download the completed food safety management system documents for your records.
You should also have your food hygiene certificates to show the EHO.
Top tips on how to prepare for your food hygiene inspection
Your EHO will check key areas of your kitchen so it is important to prepare so that he or she can see it at its best.
- Before the visit, clean, clean and then clean some more! Your EHO will want to see that your premises are clean and in good condition. As well as the surfaces and the areas for food preparation, you want to create a good first impression. So make sure that everything is clean and sparkling including the entrance, the windows and all areas of your home that are relevant to your business.
- Make sure that all your equipment is clean, safe and fully functioning especially the fridge and freezer. The EHO is also concerned with the safety of the workplace so make sure that all knives are safely put away and that there are no hazards that could cause you to have an accident. Loose frayed wires, dodgy connections or any other broken equipment that you have learned to live with, will not stand the scrutiny of an EHO inspection.
- Make sure that you have adequate handwashing facilities. Personal hygiene is crucial to food safety so your EHO will want to see your toilet and handwashing facilities and also your area for handwashing in the kitchen, which is important for avoiding cross contamination. Your toilet and bathroom must not open out directly into your kitchen.
- Pest control. This is a major area of concern for environmental health officers so you need to show you are 100% pest free. Food storage areas and the area where you dispose of your kitchen waste can be a magnet for pests such as cockroaches, ants or even mice or rats, so you need to ensure that all of your premises are clean and uninhabited by these unwelcome intruders. If you have pets, you must show that these are kept out of your kitchen at all times when you are working on food that you intend to sell.
- Clean your food storage areas. The inspectors will want to see where you store food and also how you transport it. They will inspect your vehicles and transport storage facilities.
What will inspectors be looking for?
An environmental health home kitchen inspection will check all aspects of your business and how it relates to hygiene and safety. In truth most of the inspection should be a formality if you are running your business correctly but there is often room for improvement as well.
The three areas of concern are: Food Hygiene and Safety Procedures, Structural Requirements and Confidence in Management, and they will run through a checklist to ensure that all these elements are in place.
The Nationwide Caterer’s Association has provided the following checklist in order to prepare for your EHO hygiene inspection and to maintain safety in your home kitchen business.
Food hygiene inspection checklist
- Completed, signed & dated food safety management system.
- Completed allergen information table.
- Adequate handwashing facilities.
- A means for drying hands.
- A food preparation sink.
- A suitably equipped first aid kit.
- A probe thermometer.
- Fire protective equipment – extinguishers / fire blanket.
- Proof that you’ve registered your business with the environmental health department.
- A clean, tidy, safe and easily-cleanable workspace that doesn’t provide access to pests or places for bacteria to multiply.
- Adequate ventilation.
- Adequate refrigeration for storing high risk products.
- Appropriate cleaning equipment.
- A means for disposing of waste.
- A means for temperature control and segregation (if transporting).
- Portable hot and cold water of drinking quality.
- Good personal hygiene (you and your staff).
- Evidence of food segregation i.e. raw and cooked foods.
- Protective clothing – head coverings are advisable though not compulsory.
- Evidence of hygiene training (for you and your staff).
What happens after an inspection?
After the inspection your EHO will rate your business using all the criteria mentioned in the list. The lower the score, the better your rating will be and you will receive additional points if you have failed to comply with any of the points mentioned.
Your inspection will result in a food hygiene rating which will then be displayed on the Food Standards Agency Ratings list.
The FHRS website is a way for everyone to check whether food outlets are as clean as they should be so it is important to ensure that your food business has a top rating.
The top score rating is five. Scoring four is reasonable but leaves room for improvement and anything under three could see your business closed down until you make necessary changes.
If your kitchen does not meet the necessary standards first time, you need to act on the recommendations of the food inspector in order to improve it.
A five-star hygiene rating is a great advertisement for your business. You can add this to your website or use stickers if appropriate for your company.
Anything less than a five-star rating is not a good advertisement for your business so until you can improve your rating, it is probably best not to draw your customers’ attention to it.
Here are some commonly asked questions regarding your environmental health home kitchen inspection.
When can I expect my first food hygiene inspection?
You should receive your first inspection within 28 days of registering your business but this will depend upon the EHO and their volume of work.
Does the EHO inform me of their visit in advance?
No. The whole idea is to see you operating your business on a normal daily basis so you will not receive any warning. The idea is that you should always be keeping to food safety rules, not just by making a show for the inspector’s visit.
If you are running your business on a part-time basis and otherwise are out at work throughout the day, you should provide your hours to the EHO so that they will know when you are available.
Can the EHO advise me of what I need to do before my inspection?
You can request an informal visit by an inspector before you start trading and doing this will help you make any adjustments or necessary changes before you start. If you are new to this industry, an informal visit will help you achieve a five-star rating because you will be able to improve on any areas of concern. To book an informal visit contact your local authority, after you have registered your business.
Some local authorities charge a fee for this service but this all depends upon your local area. Either way it is money well spent because it not only helps you meet the required standards, but it creates a good impression and shows that you are serious about adhering to running your business correctly and maintaining good food hygiene practice.
Do I have to pay for an EHO inspection?
You only have to pay for an environmental health home inspection if you have requested a revisit in order to implement changes highlighted in the previous inspection. Some local authorities charge for a requested revisit but not all, so to find out more contact your local authority.
Can I appeal against a decision?
If you feel that your food hygiene inspection is unfair you can appeal against the decision and request a revisit. You need to contact the local authority as soon as possible for further information about the rating and apply in writing to the FSA. You can do this online.
Download your food hygiene inspection checklist
To make sure you have got everything covered for your environmental health home kitchen inspection, download your food hygiene inspection checklist here:
As well as ensuring that you receive a five-star rating for your food business, it will help you maintain good food hygiene standards on a daily basis.
Setting up a food business from your home can be extremely rewarding. It gives you a chance to explore your passion and to test out your business with very little outlay whether you dream of doing this full time or are happy with it as a sideline.
However, it is important that all food businesses conform to high standards of food safety and hygiene. Selling food commercially is not the same as cooking for friends and family and you do have a strong responsibility to your customers to ensure that all the food you produce is safe and not going to cause them any harm.
The environmental health home kitchen inspection will help you maintain good standards and should be nothing to be afraid of. It helps you set up your kitchen and go about your business in a professional hygienic manner. Once you have achieved your five-star rating you can be confident that your business is running at a high professional standard that you can be proud of. In addition it will reassure your customers that when they buy food from you they know it will be safe.