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Last updated: 19.02.20

How to prepare for an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) visit

It’s always a critical time whenever an EHO visits. EHO stands for Environmental Health Officer, a government official in charge of inspecting businesses in the food industry for health safety law compliance and potential failings in food safety practices. Their assessments can often have a significant effect on a business’ ability to operate, thanks to their impact on business reputation.

Naturally, any organisation which can expect to be visited by an EHO should take the steps to ensure that any EHO assessment produces positive results. This blog goes into detail on EHO assessments and exactly how a business should prepare.

What does an EHO inspection entail?

An EHO inspection is normally an unannounced affair, since the officer does not have to, and generally, will not inform you of their visit. This visit will be during reasonable hours, usually during opening and closing times. The inspection will include a routine inspection of the premises and may include the taking of food and substance samples.

The officer will look into the storage and labelling of food, including temperature control and food safety management. They will also look into both personal and environmental cleaning practices, including the prevalence of hand-washing, the availability of a cleaning schedule and the management of cleaning substances. Other areas include pest control, equipment maintenance and the condition of the premises.

How to prepare for an EHO inspection

EHO inspections needn’t be scary if your premises are regularly kept to a high level of food safety and hygiene. However, it always helps to be prepared. Your starting point in this instance should be to read up on the checklist for what an EHO inspector will be looking for. Check out our food premises self-inspection checklist to help make sure you are on track.

As well as that, here are some extra handy tips to help ensure success in the event of a visit from an EHO:

  • Ask a friend or someone who isn’t associated with the business to walk through the premises and conduct a light inspection, asking themselves whether it is clean and well maintained.
  • Ensure the exterior of the premise is clean and presentable – this is the first thing the inspector will see.
  • Ensure personal hygiene practices are always observed including wearing protective gear and washing hands after handling all food. This will be one of the first things an inspector will look at.
  • Hold frequent training exercises with your staff to drill in the practices that will be scrutinised during an EHO inspection
  • Ensure that your food safety management systems are up to date, signed and completed, as well as being close to hand for you to produce for the EHO inspector

After an EHO inspection, your business will be granted a food hygiene rating which scores premises on a scale of one to five. This rating can prove very beneficial to a food business; a high score can attract more customers, who enjoy the added security and piece of mind that a food hygiene rating can bring. On the other hand, a low score can drive customers away and seriously damage the reputation of the business. It is mandatory to display the food hygiene rating in Scotland and Wales; in England, it is voluntary.

EHO inspections are required by law and EHOs have the legal power to conduct an inspection whenever they deem it necessary. The most effective way to prepare is to ensure everyone in the business is aware of what makes up best practice with regards to food hygiene. Virtual College’s selection of food hygiene courses can help, with informative training modules focused on everything from cleaning to storage. Find out level 1 course here.

We also have a great resource on how to achieve a five-star food hygiene safety rating. You can view this, and other useful resources here.