Frequently Asked Questions

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The Business Compliance team deals with calls on a variety of subjects. We have therefore produced some frequently asked questions on various topics such as

  • Suspected food poisoning
  • Filthy premises
  • Food employees wearing hats and gloves
  • Foreign body's in food 
  • Food quality issues
  • Food registration
  • Safer Food Better Business packs

Hopefully the information below will help to answer any queries you may have, however if you require information on a different subject please contact the Business Compliance team on 01727 819 406 or email environmental@stalbans.gov.uk

I want to start a food business in St Albans City and District, What do I have to do?

It is a requirement under 6(2) of regulation (EC) No 852/2004 for food premises to register with their local authority.

Businesses that need to register include:

  • Restaurants
  • Cafes
  • Takeaways
  • Retailers selling food items (sweets, crisps, chocolate etc)
  • Home caterers

It is free to register your business and ideally we would like you to register with us 28 days before the start of trading, though we understand that this is not always possible.
 
To register your business please download the form at the top of the page. You will need to fully complete this form, sign and date and then return to the address indicated on the form. Alternatively to request a form to be sent to you please email the Business Compliance Team at environmental@stalbans.gov.uk


Once the form has been received it will be input onto our system and an initial inspection worksheet will be created and allocated to an officer. Once you have started trading an unannounced inspection will be carried out unless you are working from a domestic property in which case an appointment will be made.

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Can I run a food business from home?

You will need to check with the planning department to see whether you need planning permission. Your business will need to be registered with the Business Compliance Team and you will need to demonstrate a knowledge of food hygiene principles.

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How often do food businesses have to be inspected by Business Compliance officers?

A data base of all food businesses is held on computer and the frequency of inspections depends on the risk associated with a particular premise (eg a large restaurant poses a higher potential risk than a shop selling packaged foods). Food inspections are carried out daytime, evenings and weekends to check compliance with food hygiene regulations.

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I have suspected food poisoning – what do I need to do?

It generally takes 24 / 48 hours for food poisoning symptoms to start. If you started to feel unwell shortly after your meal it may not have been food poisoning or food borne in any way. For instance a virus such as Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in this country; it is passed very easily from person to person and is particularly common during the winter months. For more information about Norovirus please download the fact sheet at the top of the page.

If you are feeling unwell and suspect food poisoning then we advise that you visit your GP and submit a stool sample for analysis. The Business Compliance team cannot investigate allegations of food poisoning without a stool sample to confirm which pathogen we are dealing with. We will however record the details on our database and it will be considered at the next inspection of the premises. To inform the Business Compliance team of the details about your illness please email environmental@stalbans.gov.uk

If you have visited your GP and submitted a stool sample then should a pathogen be confirmed in the sample we will be contacted and asked to investigate by Public Health England. We will then  contact you for further information.

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I have visited a food business and the kitchens were filthy - what should I do?

Please contact the Business Compliance Team on 01727 819 406 or email environmental@stalbans.gov.uk

Please provide the team with the following details


·         Your name, address, telephone and email address
·         The business name and address (or location i.e. Redbourn if full address not known)
·         The time and date you visited
·         The issue/s found at the premises

The complaint will be allocated to an officer who will investigate the matter. If they need any further details they will contact you.

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Common food complaints we do not investigate

The Business Compliance team will only deal with food complaints that pose a public health threat, meaning that low risk complaints will instead be followed up at the next routine inspection.


In most circumstances if you are unsatisfied with the food that you have purchased it is best to return the product to the manufacturer, supplier, caterer or shop where you bought it. A prompt complaint will allow the business or manufacturer to investigate the complaint quickly and if necessary recall the product. Most large retailers and restaurant chains have robust procedures in place which allow customers to return unsatisfactory food and get a refund.


The Business Compliance team will not deal with


Food quality issues – e.g. burnt products, bruised items of fruit and / or vegetables, bones in meat or fish.

 
Our advice – return this product to the retailer or manufacturer


Jars / Tinned products  - damaged/ dented tins, rust on the seal, seal popped.


Our advice – return this product to the retailer or manufacturer


Drinks – Taste and smell is tainted.

 
Our advice – Generally this is not a health risk so we would advise you return this product to the retailer or manufacturer


Fruit and vegetables – stones, green fly etc


Our advice – return this product to the retailer or manufacturer


Food being sold past the best before date


Our advice – this is not a food safety risk so we would advise that if you were not happy with quality of the product to return it to the retailer or manufacturer

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Food complaints we will investigate

The Business Compliance team will only investigate a food complaint if you still have the food and its packaging. We investigate complaints relating to mouldy food or foreign bodies. A foreign body would be something in the food that should not be there i.e. glass, plastic, hair, wood, a plaster, pest, fingernail, packaging material etc.


As mentioned above the Business Compliance team will only deal with food complaints that pose a public health threat, meaning that low risk complaints will instead be followed up at the next routine inspection.

Please contact the team on 01727 819 406 or email environmental@stalbans.gov.uk and provide the following details.

·         Your name, address, telephone number and email
·         The name and address of the premises being complained about
·         The date and time when the food was purchased.
·         Brief note of the cause of the complaint

 
If you no longer have the food item and foreign body then all we can do is to make a note on the system so that it is considered at the next routine inspection. 

If you still have the item of food and foreign body then please bring them to the Council offices. The complaint will then be allocated to an officer to investigate. 

Please be aware that food business may have a due diligence defence and if it is proven that the business has done everything that is reasonably practicable then we cannot pursue a prosecution. Also the Council will not get involved in any claim for compensation. 

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Food quality, food labelling, counterfeit products

These issues are dealt with by Hertfordshire Trading Standards based at Hertfordshire County Council.

  
Consumer advice is provided through a regional Trading Standards helpline - Citizens Advice Consumer Service.
Please telephone: 03454 040 506 lines are open 9am - 5pm Monday to Friday or alternatively visit the Hertfordshire Trading Standards webpage

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Employees not wearing hats or gloves

It is not a legal requirement for businesses to wear gloves or hats. It is up to the business to assess the risk as part of their food safety management system, therefore the Business Compliance team will not investigate these complaints.

If however you would like to provide details to the team they will be logged onto our system and taken into consideration during the next routine inspection.

Please contact the team on 01727 819 406 or email environmental@stalbans.gov.uk and provide

·         Your name, address, telephone number and email
·         The business name and address
·         A brief history of the complaint – what, when, where etc.

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Safer Food Better Business packs

Unfortunately the Council can now only send Safer Food Better Business packs to new businesses.

If you are a new business and you would like to request a pack please call the Business Compliance Team on 01727 819 406 or email environmental@stalbans.gov.uk giving your name, the new business name and the best address to send the pack to.


If you are an existing business and would like another copy, you can download the pack and diary sheets from the Food Standards Agency website

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Date of last review: 28 August 2015