Food Safety FAQs

I believe I have food poisoning from eating in a place in the District what should I do?

Take details of when, where, what you ate, the symptoms you had/have had etc. You should also visit your doctor.

What can I do if I have bought some suspect food?

If you have bought food from a shop or eaten a meal out that contained something which shouldn't have been there such as plastic or hair, contact us as soon as possible. The team has qualified staff to investigate food complaints and if the offence is serious enough the offender can be prosecuted.

In most cases the action taken will be informal but occasionally it may be more appropriate to consider formal action and this may be a prosecution in the Magistrates Court or a formal caution. To precede with a prosecution the investigation would have to be conducted as a criminal investigation and sufficient evidence would have to be collected to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt. (You would need to complete a witness statement form and may be needed as a witness in court.)

You should package the food, refrigerate where necessary and contact the team to discuss the matter further. For more information please see our food complaints page.

Why do environmental health staff visit/inspect my food premises?

Staff from the Environmental Health Team have the right to enter and inspect food businesses at all reasonable times. They do not have to make an appointment and will usually arrive without prior notice. They could be carrying out a routine inspection or visiting 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.

What powers do the Inspectors have?

They can take samples and photographs and inspect records, you must not obstruct inspectors. They can detain or seize suspect foods. They may write to you informally asking you to put right any problems that they find, carefully listing what were the contraventions of the law and what recommendations of good practice were made. In serious cases they may recommend prosecution and if there is an imminent health risk to consumers, inspectors can serve an emergency prohibition notice which prohibits the use of equipment or premises. This notice would have to be confirmed by the Court. The inspector may serve improvement notices for contraventions found during the inspection and he/she would agree with you a reasonable period in which to carry out the necessary works.

They can take samples and photographs and inspect records, you must not obstruct inspectors. They can detain or seize suspect foods. They may write to you informally asking you to put right any problems that they find, carefully listing the legal contraventions and recommendations of good practice. In serious cases they may recommend prosecution and if there is an imminent health risk to consumers, inspectors can serve an emergency prohibition notice which prohibits the use of equipment or premises. This notice would have to be confirmed by the Court. The inspector may serve improvement notices for contraventions found during the inspection and he/she would agree with you a reasonable period in which to carry out the necessary works.

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 the service of notice to possible prosecution for very serious offences. The division has an enforcement policy that sets out the range of factors and actions likely to be taken to ensure that businesses comply with legal requirements.

Will I require planning permission?

This depends on the type of food premise you wish to operate. For further information please visit our planning page.

I want to open a new food business - what do I need to do?

This depends on the type of business but contact the Health Protection Team who will arrange to call and advise.

Do I need to be registered to sell food?

Yes, if you run a food business establishment you must tell the local authority about any premises you use for storing, selling, distributing or preparing food. Anyone starting a new food business must register with the local authority at least 28 days prior to opening. Further information on registering your business can be found on our food registration guidance page.

Do I, or anyone I employ, need formal training in order to operate a food business?

No formal training is required; however, all food handlers must be supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters to a level appropriate to their job.

Do all food handlers need to wear protective clothing/head covering?

White clean over clothing is required. It is good practice to wear head covering but may not be an offence depending on circumstances.

What checks can I carry out to ensure the food I sell is safe?

You should check that your food is cooked to the correct temperature. Check your fridge and freezer temperatures daily. Also, check the date marking on your foods to ensure that all foods are within their 'use by' date.

Can you tell me about the food safety courses you run?

We run the Level 2 award in Food Safety in Catering lasting one day. Please click here to visit our course information page.

Do you run courses or provide information in foreign languages?

No. But information is available on where foreign language courses are held, please contact the Health Protection Team for details.

Do I need to provide toilets for staff and the public?

If your premises are new, toilet facilities must be provided for both staff and customers. All premises must provide toilet facilities for their staff.

What temperature should my fridge and freezer be kept at?

Refrigerators must keep food at a temperature of 8oc or below. Freezers must keep food at -18oc or below.

What temperature should food be cooked to?

The centre temperature of the food should reach a minimum of 75oc.

How can I protect my premises and food from pests?

Ensure that your premises are properly proofed against access by pests; this will include ensuring all external gaps/holes etc. are fully covered as well as removing any potential sources of food.

Why is it important to keep raw and cooked foods separate?

To prevent cross contamination i.e. the contamination of cooked foods with bacteria from raw foods.

What do the terms "use by" and "best before" on food labels mean?

Use by dates are required by law on foods which go off quickly such as cold cooked meats and poultry, sandwiches, yoghourts, cream, milk, etc. These foods are called perishable and should always be eaten by the use by date because after that time they may become unsafe. They must be stored in the conditions that the manufacturer recommends (e.g. in a fridge) or they may start to become unsafe or deteriorate (go off) before the given date. It is an offence to sell foods past their use-by date.

Best before dates are also required by law and are used for foods which can safely be kept for longer periods of time. After the date, the food may still be safe to eat but the quality may no longer be the same. It is not an offence to sell foods past their best before date.

Some foods may be marked with a display until date. This is not a legal requirement but is an instruction for the shop to ensure the food is sold well before it is out of date.

What provision do I need to make for refuse storage and disposal?

You must arrange for the proper periodic removal of the refuse and keep the area where the refuse is stored clean and hygienic.

Where can I get further information on food safety?

You can get further information on all matters relating to food safety from the Food Standards Agency website