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Guest blog: Deeta from Environmental Health

In the second of our blog series, Wirral Council Environmental Health Manager Deeta talks about food safety, Trading Standards, and more.

"I qualified as an Environmental Health Officer in 1997 after completing an MSc in Environmental Health. I’ve worked at Wirral Council for 21 years.

What does Environmental Health cover? Loads! Areas include food safety, noise and air pollution, private water supplies, licensing of tattooists and body piercers, animal boarding and breeding establishments, dealing with rubbish complaints, landlord harassment, and illegal eviction. It even includes sampling of shellfish on the river Dee!

Up until recently, my role involved carrying out food hygiene inspections at food businesses including takeaways, restaurants, care homes, day nurseries and large food manufacturers. I say ‘recently’ because I have been successful in applying for an Operations Manager post, which means I now manage the team I used to work in.

Food Safety Officers within Environmental Health are responsible for issuing Food Hygiene Ratings to businesses. Every day they ensure food is being produced in hygienic conditions, and that staff practices are suitable for ensuring food safety. Officers have legal powers which they can use to bring about changes in practices or conditions – however, their main role is educate and advise.

At this time of year in particular, I’d like to remind residents about the importance of checking food hygiene ratings prior to booking that all-important meal, weekend takeaway, or Christmas party. There’s currently no legal requirement to display a food hygiene rating in England, so we should all do a bit of research before we go out. When ordering food on Just Eat, you can find the Food Hygiene Rating Score by clicking on the ‘Info’ tab.

It’s worth remembering that in order to obtain a score of five, a business only needs to comply with the legislation – there’s no need for gold plating!

When officers are issuing a food hygiene rating score, they must consider three areas:

Hygiene and Safety

Assessing practices that are in-place for ensuring food is safe to eat, including controls to prevent the physical, chemical and microbial contamination of food.

Structure

Including lighting, ventilation, and pest control.

Confidence in Management

This looks at the documentation the business has in-place for managing food safety hazards. This score also takes staff training into consideration and previous willingness to act on advice.

The score for each of these three areas can be found on the Food Standards Agency website, with the overall score of 0-5 also displayed.

I enjoy many things about my job (both new and old), but the best part is being responsible for protecting the health of the public, being able to make a difference, and doing interesting and varied work. In my new role I’m extremely grateful to manage a team of wonderful staff who are always professional and display the council values. There are numerous stories I could tell about staff going ‘above and beyond’ in order to achieve outcomes and resolve public health matters.

I also feel that it is extremely important to lead by example. Last month I visited food premises affected by a disruption to the water supply. By doing this – if I have protected the health of one or two people who may have eaten from the business - then all the hard work was worth it.

I am enjoying the fresh challenges my new role brings, but there are some frustrations in that I now I feel I’m constantly pestering colleagues for advice and help as everything is new to me. So far they have been great and extremely patient! I am looking forward to my role as Lead Food Officer as there are plenty of changes in the pipeline around how food safety inspections/interventions are carried out. I’m thrilled that I’ll be integral to this for Wirral. 

For the future, I’m also looking forward to developing my knowledge in all areas of Environmental Health after specialising in food safety for so many years, as well as completing my Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) 5 qualification.

Thanks for reading!"