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The food safety inspection process

The food safety inspection process explained.  If your food business is inspected you may encounter the events detailed in this page.

How often will my food business be inspected?

The frequency of inspection is determined by the 'risk rating' given to the premises at the previous inspection. Most premises receive an inspection every one to two years, however, premises judged to be 'low risk' are subject to an 'alternative enforcement activity.' 

This means they will receive an alternative type of enforcement to an inspection. Examples include a survey or a sampling visit or receipt of our business newsletter and or advice notes.

Some businesses do have a food safety and food standards inspection in the same year. If it is possible, these visits will be done at the same time.

What can I expect from an inspection?

Officers can enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours and you may request they show their authorisation. 

  • Officers will introduce themselves and explain the purpose of the visit.
  • Officers will behave in a courteous manner.
  • Officers to ask you questions and may also speak to members of your staff. They may ask you to show them documentation relevant to the food business. They will inspect your food rooms and may take photographs. They may also take samples (for example food or food packaging).

At the end of an inspection you can expect a clear explanation from the officer of any works required and recommendations of good practice. 

You will also receive a written report of the inspection together with confirmation remedial actions to be taken and distinguishing between those that are recommendations and those that are legal requirements.

How long does an inspection take? 

This will vary depending on the type of premises being inspected, however, most inspections take between one and two hours.

Are all inspections announced visits? 

The Food Services team is required to operate to the Food Law Code of Practice, this requires that most inspections are carried out unannounced during the hours of operation of the business. In some circumstances, however, appointments to carry out an inspection have to be made. 

Inspectors carry out routine inspections and may also visit as a result of a complaint.

What enforcement powers do inspectors have?

Inspectors have the right to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours. On arrival an inspector will introduce themselves and produce their identification badge to the person in charge. The inspector will discuss the purpose and scope of the visit and what they intend to do. This can involve, amongst other things:

The inspector will discuss the purpose and scope of the visit and what they intend to do. This can involve, amongst other things:

  • looking at food products on the shelves, in fridges and freezers
  • checking menus
  • looking at paper work
  • talking to staff.

Inspectors will look at the way you run your business to spot any hazards and to make sure it complies with the law. They will discuss any problems with you and advise on any solutions.

They also have powers they can use when they think it is needed, to protect the public. They have the power to:

  • take samples, photos, and inspect records
  • purchase, detain or seize suspect foods
  • serve enforcement notices which may require improvements to be made or prohibit food business operations, processes or equipment from being used.
  • where the decision is taken to prosecute the court may impose fines and/or a prison term.
Any action taken will be in accordance with the councils enforcement policy.


Enforcement policy (pdf 170kb opens in a new window)

You must not obstruct officers as this is an offence.