What we do
Food Safety regulations are there to ensure that all food offered for sale to the public is safe to eat and is properly described. It is the responsibility of the Environmental Health Service to enforce this.
Inspection of Food Premises
Environmental Health Officers have the power to enter and inspect food premises at all reasonable hours and they will usually come without advance notice. They carry out routine inspections and may also visit as the result of a complaint. How often routine inspections happen depends on the potential risk posed by the type of business and its previous record.
Officers will look at the way the business is operated, identify potential hazards and make sure it complies with food safety legislation. They will discuss any problems with the proprietor and advise on possible solutions.
When carrying out inspections officers may take samples of food, inspect records including secret manufacturing processes, take photographs and bring with them any other person they consider necessary. They can also detain or seize suspect food. They may write to the proprietor informally pointing out any problems which they have found and advise that they should be remedied. In some circumstances however they may serve an improvement notice stating the time period by which particular problems must be remedied. In more serious cases of poor hygiene standards they may decide to recommend a prosecution. If the prosecution is successful the Court may impose fines, prohibition on persons, premises or equipment and possibly imprisonment.
If there is an imminent risk to consumers, officers can serve an emergency prohibition notice which forbids the use of the premises or equipment. Such a notice must be confirmed by the Court.
What should I do if I think I am suffering from food poisoning?
Food poisoning is a common, usually mild, but sometimes deadly illness, which occurs when a person eats food or drink that is contaminated with bacteria. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, and sometimes fever.
The incubation period (time taken from eating the food to feeling unwell) varies with each type of organism and in some cases can be up to 10-15 days after consumption of the food. It's important to realise that the last meal you ate may not be the cause of your symptoms,
If you suspect you have food poisoning you must initially contact your GP and submit a faecal or vomit sample.
Environmental Health Officers work in conjunction with the Health and Social Care Board and are involved in the surveillance, investigation and control of food poisoning and other communicable diseases.
These diseases are investigated for a number of reasons:
- To trace the source of the infection.
- To take any necessary action to prevent further spread of any infectious disease.
- To trace any other persons who may have been infected or who may be at risk, family members, etc.
- To offer advice to affected people and those who may be at risk, e.g. on personal and food hygiene.
If the sample you submitted is confirmed to contain food poisoning bacteria, the Environmental Health Department will be notified and an investigation will be carried out.
This investigation will include a face to face/telephone interview during which the following details will be asked:
- Occupation (as further advice may be provided for example to food handlers)
- Details of the symptoms
- Information on any recent travel history
- Whether anyone else in the household has symptoms
- Information on contact with animals
- A history of what and where you have eaten before the illness
The Environmental Health Service will also inspect premises where appropriate.
If you have any remaining food matter which you believe may have caused your food poisoning, this should be placed in an airtight container and stored in a freezer until contact is made.
For more information on food-related illnesses, visit the Health Protection Agency's website.
What should I do if I have a food safety or hygiene issue?
You can report a food problem in a restaurant, a food shop or with food ordered online the Environmental Health Service will investigate your complaint.
Examples of issues you may wish to report:
- Food that has a foreign matter in it
- Food with visible signs of mould or decay
- Food sold past its use-by date
- Unavailable or incorrect allergen information
- Dirty premises
- Poor hand hygiene
- Poor food handling
The foreign object, food, its packaging and proof of purchase should all be retained and produced for the investigating officer as it may be sent for analysis. The investigating officer will contact the retailer, supplier, manufacturer or the local authority in whose area the product was made.
The food complaint procedure may take several months to complete. Any subsequent action taken by the Environmental Health Service will relate to food safety issues and not to attaining compensation for the complainant. This is a matter that can be dealt with through your own solicitor.
Please note that if the food item was not bought in premises within the council area, then you should contact the council in which the food item was purchased and they will investigate the matter.
To contact our Environmental Health team please call 028 9244 7397 or email: [email protected]