Published: 16 October 2017 by Graeme Cushion
A spate of recent prosecutions under Food Safety Regulations pertaining to cleanliness and the presence of mice serves to highlight the importance of early intervention once problems are identified.
This is particularly pertinent given the revised sentencing Guidelines which came in last year affecting all prosecutions for Food Safety, Health & Safety and Corporate Manslaughter.
The calculation of fines is far too complex to go into in an article such as this but a poignant example is that the suggested fine range for a business with a turnover in excess of £50m in medium rather than severe circumstances is between £35,000 and £220,000!
Lack of proper cleaning and the presence of mice or other pests normally go hand in hand and it is therefore imperative that any business invests time and money in ensuring that they have adequate preventative systems. This means that the issues of proper cleaning and pest control need to appear prominently in any Food Safety Policy, with staff also being given adequate training on that policy and on their general food safety responsibilities. Training Records should be kept together with records of daily cleaning and it makes sense for all of this to be spot checked by unannounced external audits.
A pest control contract is also imperative with a clear process of escalation of the contractor’s involvement should evidence of pests be detected. The responsibility for spotting pest activity should not rest solely with the contractor as they will only visit the premises infrequently until such time as a significant problem is discovered.
Staff must also be trained to spot the signs of pests and to take appropriate action should their presence be detected. It may be that in the worst scenarios a business has to take the bold decision to close the kitchen in order for proper pest proofing and cleaning to take place.
Having all of these procedures in place serves not only to protect the business against the spectre of unlimited fines from the courts but also from an Environmental Health Officer’s emergency powers to close a business if there is an imminent risk to public health. Whilst the service of an Emergency Hygiene Protection Notice can sometimes be avoided by agreement to close voluntarily, the EHO will be less likely to follow the informal route if there is a suggestion that staff have spotted the signs of activity but that the business has continued to trade nonetheless.
Whilst a voluntary closure might seem counter-intuitive, it is surely better than the adverse publicity that comes with the court appearance which inevitably follows the service of a formal notice. There are also the costs involved in that process to consider.
Finally, it would seem to be a simple matter of human psychology that if an Environmental Health Officer has felt the need to actually serve a Notice to close a premises down then they are also more likely to prosecute the business owners as a result of the failings which gave rise to the closure.
New allergen legislation comes into force on 1st October 2021
Are you ready for Natasha’s Law?
Michael Gove MP Backs FSA’s Food Labelling Recommendation
Michael Gove MP has announced that new laws known as ‘Natasha’s Law’ will be implemented
National pubco fined for food hygiene offences
£180k fine for serious failings
Can’t find what you’re looking for?