What is a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice and what should I do if my business is served with one?

If an Environmental Health Officer attends a Food Business and is satisfied that the conditions there present an imminent risk of injury to health, a hygiene emergency prohibition notice may be served on the Food Business Operator.

These notices are frequently used where officers have identified pest infestations or pest activity in areas of the premises where food is prepared and handled.

They may also be used in other cases including, but not limited to: circumstances where there is evidence of very poor structural conditions at the premises; poor maintenance and cleaning; and accumulations of refuse or dirt that result in the actual contamination of food or a significant risk of food contamination.  

The Environmental Health Officer will display the notice at the premises in a position where it is clearly visible. It is an offence to breach the notice.

The service of a hygiene emergency prohibition notice will lead to the food business operator being prohibited from using the premises or equipment for the purposes of any food business. This normally means that there will be a closure of the premises.  

The Environmental Health Team must apply to a magistrates’ court for a hygiene emergency prohibition order.  If this is not done successfully, the Food Business Operator can seek compensation for any loss that is suffered as a result of its compliance with the notice.

The Food Business Operator must be notified of the application for an emergency hygiene prohibition order by the Environmental Health Officer at least one day before the date of the application.

A hearing will take place at the magistrates’ court to consider whether to grant the order and a Food Business Operator is entitled to be represented at this hearing. Legal advice should be sought by the Food Business Operator when it receives a hygiene emergency prohibition notice to consider whether representation is required at the hearing.

The magistrates’ court will grant the hygiene emergency prohibition order if it is satisfied of the imminent risk of injury to health.

The prohibition will remain in place until such time as the Environmental Health Officer is satisfied that sufficient measures have been taken to eliminate the imminent risk of injury to health. A certificate stating that there is no longer an imminent risk of injury to health must be provided by the Environmental Health Officer within 3 days of that decision being made. 

A food business operator is entitled to request a certificate from the Council.  The Environmental Health Officer must make the decision on whether to remove the prohibition within 14 days of the request being made by the Food Business Operator.  If the officer is not satisfied with the steps taken by the Food Business Operator it must set out the reasons for its decision.

The closure of the premises is likely to have an immediate effect on the business leading to short term loss of trade whilst the premises is closed and damage to brand and reputation.  Extensive works, both structural and cleaning, are often required to secure the removal of the prohibition to enable the premises to re-open. 

The next stage is often a formal investigation that is commenced by the local authority that served the hygiene emergency prohibition notice.  The local authority has a number of enforcement options open to it at the end of its investigation, including prosecution.

If you or your business is served with a hygiene emergency prohibition notice it is important that you seek legal advice in relation to it as soon as it is received. Advice can then be provided in respect of the notice; the application for an order; and any subsequent investigation or prosecution for alleged breaches of the food hygiene regulations.

You should call our specialist Regulatory Partner, James Lowe, on 07833 240400 for advice and assistance.