Working in the food business is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Your main focus is on providing top-notch hospitality and ensuring your guests have a great experience. But it's equally important to maintain hygienic and safe kitchens and premises, meeting all required standards.
However, sometimes authorities find premises that don't meet these standards, uncovering serious breaches and concerns.
In this article, we'll explore what happens if a serious breach is found and what receiving a hygiene emergency prohibition notice could mean for a business.
What is a hygiene emergency prohibition notice?
A hygiene emergency prohibition notice is a serious action under the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations. It's issued by Environmental Health Officers when they find conditions in a food establishment that pose immediate health risks to the public.
Under regulation 8, an Officer can serve this notice when they inspect and find such risks, indicating that urgent action is required.
When is a hygiene emergency prohibition notice be issued?
A hygiene emergency prohibition notice is given when there are risks to the general public and their health.
So, what are these risks?
Some of the most common and severe risks that would trigger a hygiene emergency prohibition notice include:
Pest infestations: Any evidence of serious pest infestations within areas where food is prepared and handled.
Poor structural conditions: Instances where the buildings show very poor structural conditions.
Inadequate maintenance and cleaning: If there are signs of poor maintenance and cleaning practices, particularly those that could impact food safety.
Accumulations of rubbish or dirt: Lots of rubbish or dirt that pose a significant risk of actual food contamination.
Any of the above risks can contribute to being issued with a notice when they are seen at an inspection; there doesn’t need to be any injury or complaint that has happened before the inspection to trigger the notice.
What does it mean if my business receives a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice?
Getting a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice is serious and can be devastating for your business, both immediately and in the long run.
The notice can shut down your operations right away. Depending on the risks found, it might stop specific activities or force a complete closure. This means losing customers, money, and harming your reputation.
You must follow the notice's instructions—it's the law. Not complying can lead to fines or even imprisonment for up to two years. Environmental Health Officers may take legal action if you don't follow the notice.
If you get this notice, you must decide whether to work with the Officers to fix the issues or challenge the notice in court if you disagree. Ignoring it can make things worse and affect any legal action against you.
Removing a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice
Removing a hygiene emergency prohibition notice and its orders involves a structured legal process to show authorities that the health risks have been resolved.
First, a magistrates' court hearing is held where you can attend or have a small business solicitor represent you. If the order is granted, it means health risks were identified, and you must fix them.
Quickly make necessary changes at your premises to address the risks mentioned in the notice. Then, apply to the magistrates' court to remove the order.
The court decides within 14 days of receiving the application. If successful, the order is lifted, and your business can resume operations. If not, the reasons are provided, and you must meet standards before reapplying.
Upon successful removal, an Environmental Health Officer issues a Certificate of Satisfaction within three days, confirming no risk. You can also request a certificate from the Council for proof.
After removal, the local authority may start a formal investigation, possibly leading to enforcement actions like prosecution, depending on the findings.
How to avoid a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice
Avoiding a hygiene emergency prohibition notice can be relatively easy, as long as you are proactive in putting excellent food safety and health measures in place.
Plus, if there are any issues that you find along the way, you should always get them sorted straight away, particularly when an inspector identifies a risk during an inspection.
Certain things can help you ace your food hygiene and safety practices, including:
Comprehensive training for all staff involved in food preparation and handling
Regularly updating staff on the latest guidelines and regulations
Stay informed about and strictly meet food safety regulations, especially the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
Have clear policies and procedures in place that meet regulatory requirements.
Do regular inspections and audits and quickly sort out any non-compliance issues discovered
Put pest control measures in place and regularly inspect and maintain the building.
Maintain the structural integrity of the premise.
Have a regular and thorough cleaning and maintenance schedule in place.
Implement an effective waste management system.
Enforce strict health and hygiene practices for all staff, including regular handwashing and the use of appropriate protective clothing.
Maintain comprehensive records of all food safety practices, including cleaning schedules, pest control measures, and staff training.
Foster open communication with Environmental Health Officers.
There are lots of really useful resources provided by the Food Standards Agency that can help you check your practice is as sound as it can be, and improve it.
What should be included in a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice?
A hygiene emergency prohibition notice should include:
Clear reasons for the health risks identified, including specific details of the conditions or practices posing a threat to public health;
Reference to relevant legal provisions, especially the Food Saftey and Hygiene Regulations;
Details of activities or processes you're prohibited from carrying out, whether it's the entire business or specific processes;
The name and contact details of the issuing Environmental Health Officer, along with support or guidance information;
The issue date for compliance timelines and legal proceedings;
Specific instructions and actions to eliminate risks, including a timeframe for making changes and legal consequences for non-compliance;
Display requirements at your premises for customers and authorities to easily see the notice;
Information on your right to appeal, including the process and deadline for appealing.
What happens if a business doesn't comply with a Food Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice?
Non-compliance with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice has serious legal consequences, as it's a severe breach of food safety regulations and a legal offense.
If a business doesn't comply, Environmental Health Officers can start legal proceedings against them, leading to prosecution and potential fines. In extreme cases, imprisonment can be enforced.
Persistent non-compliance may also trigger further legal actions, including additional notices or license revocations, which could severely impact the business's ability to operate.
What's more, not prioritising public safety damages the business's reputation and brand image, which could cause long-term trust issues with customers.
If non-compliance with a notice causes harm, compensation claims against the business can lead to additional financial liabilities.
In short, compliance in these matters is essential for everyone's benefit!
Can a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice or order be appealed or withdrawn?
Yes, a hygiene emergency prohibition notice or order can be appealed or, under certain circumstances, withdrawn.
Appealing a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice or Order
You have the right to appeal a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice or Order.
The appeal must be lodged within a month from when notice of the decision was served.
You need valid grounds for appeal, such as disputing the reasons for the notice or showing that corrective actions have been taken.
The appeal is heard at the Magistrates' Court, where evidence from both sides is considered. It's advisable to have legal representation to present your case effectively.
The court decides based on the evidence. If successful, the Prohibition Order may be lifted, allowing your business to resume normal operations.
Withdrawal of a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice or Order
If the Environmental Health Officer is satisfied that the health risk has been resolved, they can issue a Certificate of Satisfaction.
You can then request the withdrawal of the notice or order. The request goes to the relevant authorities, and the Officer considers it promptly, usually within 14 days.
If the Officer agrees the risks are resolved, the notice or order may be withdrawn.
If the Officer refuses, you can appeal to the Magistrates' Court. There's also the right to appeal to the Crown Court in certain cases.
Need help with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice?
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