Food Safety Inspections

Environmental Health Officers carry out regular checks on all food premises. It is an offence to sell or process food for sale which is harmful to health. Businesses must ensure activities are carried out in a hygienic way, which includes:

  • conditions and cleanliness within a food business
  • food handling practices
  • personal hygiene
  • training of staff
  • written food safety procedures
  • imported foods
  • and much more


Visits are carried out, as far as possible, without prior notification and are priority programmed according to the degree of potential risk, to ensure higher risk premises are visited more frequently than those in lower risk categories.

During an inspection

Officers will want to reassure themselves that potential food safety risks have been identified by the business, and that there are adequate controls in place to prevent any problems. They will look at manager and food handler training, as well as the condition of the premises and equipment.

Where practices or conditions are not satisfactory, every attempt will be made to resolve the situation by informal means, but where poor conditions persist, or where there is a risk to public health, it may be necessary to resort to formal action. This could involve either the service of a legal notice, prosecution or, in extreme cases, closure of the business.

Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

The scheme helps you choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving you clear information about the business' hygiene standards. We run the scheme in partnership with the Food Standards Agency.

We give businesses a rating from 5 to 0 which is displayed at their premises and online so you can make more informed choices about where to buy and eat food.

The scheme is set out in law in Wales and Northern Ireland, however businesses in England do not have to display their rating at their premises but are encouraged to do so.


Understanding Ratings

A food safety officer inspects a business to check that it follows food hygiene law so that food is safe to eat.

The rating shows how well the business is doing overall, based on standards found at the time of inspection. It is the responsibility of the business to comply with food hygiene laws at all times. The ratings can be found online and on stickers which are displayed at business premises. The back of the sticker and the online rating will also show the date of the inspection.

Ratings are typically given to places where food is supplied, sold or consumed, such as:

  • Restaurants, pubs & cafes
  • Takeaways, food vans and stalls
  • Canteens and hotels
  • Supermarkets and other food shops
  • Schools, hospitals and care homes

Childminders and low risk businesses are exempt from receiving a rating

At the inspection, the officer will check the following three elements:

  1. How hygienically the food is handled - how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
  2. The physical condition of the business - including cleanliness, layout, lighting,ventilation, pest control and other facilities
  3. How the business manages ways of keeping food safe, looking at processes, training and systems to ensure good hygiene is maintained.

The officer can then assess the level of confidence in standards being maintained in the future.

The food hygiene rating scheme does not provide information on the following factors:

  • Quality of Food
  • Customer Service
  • Culinary skill
  • Presentation
  • Comfort

The rating scale

The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are then rated on a scale:

  • 5 - Hygiene standards are very good and fully comply with the law 
  • 4 - Hygiene standards are good
  • 3 - Hygiene standards are generally satisfactory
  • 2 - Some improvement is necessary
  • 1 - Major improvement is necessary
  • 0 - Urgent improvement is necessary

To get the top rating, businesses must do well in all three elements which are referenced above. If the top rating is not given, the officer will explain to the business the necessary actions they can take to improve their hygiene rating.

Business which are given low ratings must make urgent or major improvements to hygiene standards. The food safety officer has several enforcement options available as well as giving advice and guidance to make sure these improvements are made.

Differences between online ratings and rating sticker displayed

There may be temporary differences between the rating displayed at a business and the online rating for which there are valid reasons, such as:
  • The business has appealed its latest rating and is awaiting the result
  • The local authority is in the process of uploading the new rating to the website

Frequency of inspections

A new rating is given each time a business is inspected by a food safety officer from the business's local authority.

Each local authority plans a programme of inspections every year. The frequency of inspections depends on the potential risk to public health.

The assessment takes account of the following factors:

  • Type of food that is handled
  • The number and type of customers, for example vulnerable groups
  • Types of processes carried out before the food is sold or served
  • Hygiene standards seen on the day of the last inspection

Businesses that pose a higher risk are inspected more often than businesses that pose a lower risk, for example a small retailer selling a range of prepacked foods that need to be refrigerated. The time between inspections varies from six months for the highest risk businesses to two years for lower risk businesses. For some very low risk businesses, the interval between inspections may be longer than two years, however there may be some exceptions to this.

In between inspections, local authorities may also monitor businesses in other ways to ensure they are maintaining hygiene standards. If these checks reveal anything that might indicate that hygiene standards have deteriorated, the officer will carry out an inspection and the business will get a new rating.

If the local authority receives complaints or new information about a business that they are not due to inspect, and this suggests hygiene standards are not being maintained, the local authority will investigate and may inspect the business and give it a new hygiene rating.

Where can I get further information?

The Food Standards Agency provide more details about the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. 

They also provide:


Further information on what the Food Inspectors are looking for during an inspection can be found on our page Good food hygiene.

We produce a service plan every year, detailing the aims and objectives of the food safety service and how it is run.