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An unfavourable environmental health inspection can be incredibly costly. Clearly, if legal action is taken, it could be catastrophic and many businesses have not survived the poor publicity or the fines, which can now be extremely high. A 20% - 50% drop in trade is common for an establishment that receives a poor Food Hygiene Rating particularly when the local media pick up on the fact. For a small or medium sized establishment, the losses in such circumstances typically run to tens of thousands of pounds. That is in addition to the costs of appealing or paying for a revisit plus any cost of correcting the problems identified.

Unfortunately, the BHA has seen all too many circumstances in which Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) have demanded more of restaurants than may be strictly necessary, blurring the lines between legal requirements and recommendations, sometimes with the result that the restaurant’s food hygiene rating has suffered. Typical issues have been that EHOs:

  • Require fly screens to be fitted in all cases
    • Fly screens are NOT compulsory in all cases - only where there is a risk.
  • State that food must be cooled to below 8ºC in 90 mins
    • You DO NOT have to cool food to 8ºC in 90 mins.
  • Require a sick food handler to be excluded for 48 hours in all circumstances
    • You DO NOT always have to exclude a sick food handler for 48 hours after illness in all cases. There is separate guidance on this.
  • State that legally food handlers must receive 6 hours of level 2 food hygiene training
    • Food handlers DO NOT have to have 6 hours of L2 training but must be trained commensurate to their work activity.
  • Require a wash hand basin to be located in a food intake/ delivery area
    • There is NO requirement for wash hand basins to be provided in delivery areas.
  • Say that food may not be prepared on a wooden surface  
    • It is not true to say that wood can never be used as a food contact surface.
  • Require purple chopping boards be used for preparing allergenic foods
    • Food businesses do not need to use these.  This approach may provide a false sense of food safety compliance.  Many individuals are allergic to a combination of food stuffs.  Being more vigilant on hygiene/ cleaning would prevent cross contamination by allergenic foodstuffs. 
  • Say that allergen controls must be part of your hazard analysis plan (HACCP)
    • Allergen controls DO NOT have to be part of HACCP.  Allergen controls can be part of the Safety Management System without being part of the HACCP.

To help hospitality businesses navigate such pitfalls, the BHA collaborated with the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland to produce the BHA Catering Guide, which is the definitive guide to good food hygiene compliance and good practice. This guide has been assessed and Assured by Cornwall Council, the BHA’s Primary Authority.

BHA members can now sign up to the BHA’s Primary Authority Scheme with Cornwall Council and it's completely free for members. This means that so long as members have opted in to the scheme and have followed the catering guide faithfully, they will have the backing of Cornwall Council in any dispute over the interpretation of requirements of the food hygiene regulations. Furthermore, following The Catering Guide will help you achieve a top Food Hygiene Rating.  

The BHA scheme is voluntary and currently members who wish to participate must opt-in. Click here to opt-in. 

* Currently the BHA Primary Authority scheme is only available in England and Wales.