Food Safety Team - What we do

What does the Food Safety Team check for?

By carrying out visits and investigations of food establishments we:

  • ensure that food is being handled and produced hygienically
  • look at the potential risk for food poisoning or injury as a result of food consumption
  • ensure that food is safe to eat
  • ensure that the food handling staff are trained in food hygiene and handling practices
  • inspect the condition of equipment and the premises
  • ensure there are precautions in place to prevent pest infestation
  • ensure that staff are aware of the importance of personal hygiene
  • check for correct labelling of products, and carry out food sampling

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How does the council keep a check on the food sold in the borough?

Officers from the Food Safety team carry out routine sampling of food on a programmed basis from food businesses in the borough.

Samples are tested to check that:

  • the ingredients match the label
  • they do not contain any non-permitted additives
  • they do not contain dangerous bacteria

If a product is found not to comply with standards we can insist on it being removed from sale.

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Who inspects food businesses?

Environmental Health Practitioners employed by the council will inspect food businesses in Haringey (always ask to see some form of official identification). Food inspections are normally carried out without prior notice, and the inspection time varies. Officers may carry out a routine inspection or visit as a result of a complaint. They will look at the way you operate your business to identify potential hazards and make sure that you are complying with the law.

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How often are businesses inspected by Environmental Health Practitioners?

It depends on the risk associated with the particular business, which in turn depends on the kind of business (a restaurant poses a higher potential risk than a shop selling only packaged food, and therefore would need to be visited more often), and the condition of the business itself, as assessed by the inspector at each visit. Inspection intervals range from every six months (highest risk) to every five years (lowest risk).

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What happens during an inspection?

The officer(s) will:

  • talk to staff about your quality control systems and practices (where these exist)
  • inspect all parts of your premises and equipment
  • talk to you about staff training, controlling hazards and temperature control
  • examine relevant documentation including recipes, maintenance, temperature, food safety management systems and staff sickness records
  • take samples and swabs as part of a routine inspection

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What will happen if an inspector finds problems with food standards at my business?

This depends on the seriousness of the problem. Minor contraventions will result in the inspector advising on how best to rectify the situation. More serious matters will be dealt with more formally, ranging from Notice being served, to possible prosecution for very serious offences.

In very extreme cases (such as very dirty premises or a serious pest infestation), an inspector can order the closure of the business. In such cases we have to prove in court that there is a real risk to public health from the premises. In most cases we will help businesses comply with the regulations and trade successfully.

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What powers do inspectors have?

Inspectors have the power to:

  • take samples, photographs and inspect records
  • write informally asking the proprietor to put right any problems they find - where breaches of the law are identified - which must be put right
  • serve Improvement Notices
  • detain or seize food
  • recommend prosecution for serious offences. If we prosecute and are successful, the Court may impose prohibitions on processes and the use of premises and equipment, impose fines, prohibit someone from running a food business and the possibly of imprisonment for serious offences

If there is an imminent health risk to consumers, inspectors can serve an Emergency Prohibition Notice that prevents the use of the premises or equipment - the Courts must confirm such a notice

Inspectors can also formally exclude someone from working in a food business if they are found to be suffering with a food-borne illness or infectious disease.

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What am I entitled to expect from the inspectors?

You can expect our inspectors to:

  • have a courteous manner
  • show identification
  • give feedback from any inspection, such as information about hazards which have been identified, and guidance on how they should be avoided
  • clearly distinguish between what you must do to comply with the law, and what is recommended good practice
  • give you the reasons, in writing, for any action you are asked to take
  • show where there is an apparent breach of law, and a statement of what that law is
  • give you reasonable time to meet statutory health requirements (except where there is an immediate risk to public health)
  • outline procedures for appealing against local authority action

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Can I refuse entry?

No - it is a criminal offence to obstruct an authorised officer in the course of their duty.

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What should I do if I receive an Improvement Notice?

You must take immediate steps to ensure that you comply with it, within the specified time period. If you do not comply then you may be prosecuted. If you cannot comply within the time period you should contact the Food Safety Team immediately. Let the inspector know of the progress that you are making to comply with the notice.

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Who governs what the officers do?

The officers must comply with, and/or adhere to:

  • European Union Food Safety Directives and Regulations where appropriate
  • The Food Safety Act 1990 and also associated regulations
  • Code of Practice issued by the Food Standards Agency
  • Advice in relevant approved industry guides for food businesses

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What can I do if I think the outcome is not fair?

If you do not agree with the action taken by the inspector, you should first contact the Food Safety Team Manager. You can do this by calling 020 8489 1335

In the first instance we will try to resolve the problem informally. If you are still not happy then you can ask for your complaint to be referred to the Regulatory Services Manager where a further investigation will be undertaken. If you are still not happy then your complaint will be escalated further.

If you think your local authority is applying the law in a different way from other authorities you can seek advice through your trade association. You have the right of appeal to a Magistrates’ Court against an Improvement Notice or refusal by a local authority to lift an Emergency Prohibition Order made earlier by the Court. A Magistrates’ Court must confirm the emergency closure of a business or the seizure of food. If the magistrates decide premises have been shut without proper reason, or food has been wrongly seized or detained, you have a right to compensation.

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Contact Details

The Food Safety Team
Level 1 North
River Park House
225 High Road
Wood Green
N22 8HQ

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Page last updated:

November 29, 2022

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