Food Safety Inspections and Enforcement
West Lothian Council's Environmental Health team have a legal duty to inspect food businesses within their area to ensure that they are complying with the different pieces of national food law which set out rules and standards to keep food safe.
Inspections will look at the safety of how the food is handled, prepared, stored and sold, and will also look at whether the information provided about the food on labels, menus etc. is accurate and that ingredients are used which are safe.
Inspections will be carried out without any notification. This is to make sure that officers can look at how the business operates under normal conditions. However, the purpose of an inspection is not to find problems, or catch people out. The purpose of an inspection is to make sure that a business is operating safely and is able to show it can do this every day it is operating. Officers will only take action against a business if there is a risk to public health. In most cases business operators and staff work hard to keep food safe, and officers will provide guidance to ensure any issues requiring attention are dealt with.
After every inspection a score will be given to the business depending on how well it is complying with food safety. The higher the score the more often the business will be inspected. The highest scoring businesses will be inspected every 6 months, and the lowest scoring every 3 years. This is a national scoring scheme used by all local authorities in Scotland. However, if there are serious problems which need to be fixed then officers will carry out more visits, and take formal action against the business to ensure standards are improved. Serious concerns are not ignored. The inspection score can go up or down at every inspection depending on the level of compliance found.
At the end of every inspection the food business will be left a report of the issues discussed and any matters they need to fix.
If more serious action is required then officers have the power to serve different notices to improve standards, stop the business operating, seize and take for destruction any food felt to be a danger, and also report matters to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution.
West Lothian Council also participate in the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS). After every inspection the business with receive either a Pass or Improvement Required certificate. This allows customers to see how the business performed at the last inspection.
Even though West Lothian Council have a duty and power to inspect and protect public health it should be remembered that the responsibility for ensuring safe food every day belongs to the business owner and the staff working in the business.