Comment by: Dr John Foster MBE
Focus area: Food manufacturing (small businesses)
Regulator concerned: Environmental Heath (Local Authority),Food Standards Agency (FSA),Trading Standards (Local Authority)
Our local authority inspectiors are first class.
Occasionally we ask for assistance; which is provided in a helpful informal manner.
Inspections are infrequent. Our factory holds a number of external food safety accreditations (BRC and SALSA) The inspectors like to see the inspection reports from these external auditors which reduces their need to inspect us. They can target their resources towards high risk or uncompliant food operations rather than us.
I operate a bakery but have two shops also. Although we work to the same systems; in one of my shops, if the manager is away when the inspection takes place, the staff seem debilitated through fear and can give the impression that they are not confident in what they are doing.
It’s simply the perception of SOME people towards being inspected – they panic even though they have nothing to fear.
It’s the same when a TSO obtains a sample for analysis; in one of my shop the manager welcomes the opportunity to affirm that we are complaint but in the other they fly into a dread panic.
I have a concern about the food hygiene rating system (scores on the doors) namely how to ensure consistency across the country. A 5 star rating in one authority should mean the same in every authority. I suspect that there is difference in scoring even between inspectors within the same authority. I did a quick statistical analysis on two authorities and noticed a huge diffrence in the proportion of 5 star and no star ratings between the two authorities. One authority was clearly more stringent than the other.
I use the scores on the doors website when considering visiting a restaurant for the first time so it’s important to get things right.