The District Council carries out rolling inspections of every food-handling premises in the district - around 1500 shops, takeaways, restaurants and pubs.

Inspections may be a routine food hygiene inspection or to investigate a complaint (e.g. consumer complaints about an item of food, hygiene standards or unsafe food handling practices), to sample food or to investigate allegations of food poisoning arising from a premises. If you are operating a food business, you may find the Food Standards Agency "A Guide for Businesses" [PDF] helpful.

A visit will usually be unannounced and take place during opening hours. Officers do not have to make an appointment and have the right to inspect a food premises at any reasonable time. During a routine inspection, officers will look at the way the business is operated to assess if the food business operator is complying with the law. The options for enforcement after this assessment range from informal advice and guidance to prosecution and/or closure.

The officer will give you advice during the inspection and a written report will be supplied within 14 days of the inspection, in accordance with the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. After the inspection food businesses are given a score based on the level of food safety found during the visit. The scoring system is contained in the Food Law Code of Practice [PDF], which all food authorities must adhere to. This score is then used to determine how often the business is inspected and is risk based. The frequency of inspections ranges from six months for the highest risk businesses to five years for low risk businesses.

Where serious contraventions of the law are found, an officer can serve a hygiene improvement notice. It is an offence not to comply with one of these notices. If there is an imminent risk to health, officers can serve an emergency prohibition notice that forbids the use of the premises. This notice must be confirmed by the court. Alternatively officers will work with the food business operator if premises are voluntarily closed.

In serious cases of contraventions of the law a prosecution could be instituted. If this is successful the Court may impose fines and a prohibition on the premises.