There have been several reported prosecutions over the last few months because pubs have failed to deal effectively with problems with mice. In the latest of these the licensees at a Portsmouth pub were fined £8,500; droppings were found in food cupboards and on the restaurant floor and they had failed to keep food safety records.
It is imperative for hygiene reasons that mice are effectively controlled where food is being stored and prepared. To ensure that you don’t fall foul of the law you need to be able to prove that you adopt and follow good food hygiene practice, so record keeping is essential.
Food outlets must have in place a written Food Safety Management Procedure based on the principles of HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point). You must keep documentary evidence of your procedures, keep them up to date and keep records of regular inspections.
The Government has produced useful guidance on pest control and inspections which can be adapted for your premises.
The Local Authority is responsible for enforcing food hygiene regulations. If, following an inspection, your premises are found to have a pest problem you may be served with either:
- A hygiene improvement notice – setting out certain things that you need to do to comply if your business is breaking the law; this gives you a chance to put things right.
- A hygiene emergency prohibition notice. In more serious cases this can forbid the use of equipment or premises if there is a risk of “injury to health”. The issue of such a notice must be approved by a court. A further certificate is issued removing the prohibition once inspectors are happy that the defect has been remedied. You can appeal against the issue of an emergency notice and you are entitled to compensation if a notice has been wrongly issued.
Inspectors can also recommend prosecution in serious cases which can result in closure, fines or even a period of imprisonment.
Make sure you take action
The key point about the case of the Portsmouth licensees was that they had already been given a chance to close the pub and clean it, but when inspectors carried out further inspections standards had not improved dramatically. If inspectors highlight an issue with hygiene and give you a chance to put things right it is imperative that you do so at the earliest opportunity in order to avoid prosecution and a potentially large fine.
The Food Standards Agency has produced a useful food hygiene guide for cafes and restaurants.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.