Our compliance auditors regularly assess the food safety and food hygiene risk levels in our customers’ establishments through completing a kitchen audit. A common question we come across from customers is which areas of food safety actually get addressed during one of these kitchen audits. They want to ensure that when the inspection takes place, their kitchen audit results don’t show up any areas of concern.
What is a kitchen audit?
Our consultancy team have created robust auditing methods that align with UK and EU food safety and food hygiene regulations. Through carrying out a kitchen audit they will spot any areas of legal non-compliance instantly. Internal protocols and policies too, are integrated into any kitchen audit we complete for our customers. So, a kitchen audit is simply that: a great way to prepare your management team for an unexpected visit from the EHO. At the end of each kitchen audit your staff will know exactly what is addressed during an inspection from the EHO. They will also know where they’re at in terms of kitchen hygiene and food safety levels, as well as be given the tools to iron out any areas of concern prior to receiving their permanent food hygiene level certificate.
What is inspected during a kitchen audit?
For those in need of help to manage food safety and hygiene, our expert Stuart Knill has pulled together a list of 10 food safety and hygiene areas that get inspected during a kitchen audit:
1. Checking of Food Use-By Dates
Food can be dated according to use-by-date, which is generally considered the most important method of ensuring food is safe for consumption. In certain cases, a prep-by-date (preparation date) is also provided. This extra date may need to be adhered to according to company food safety policies and best practices.
During a kitchen audit, our consultants will inspect the use-by or prep-by dates of the food you have in stock, with reference to a company’s official food safety policy requirements. Ready-bought food will be checked for dates on packaging, or according to the supplier recommendations which are stipulated on associated paperwork. Ready-to-eat foods are generally given three days, including the day it was ‘made’, until they should be used. However, other use-by dates can apply depending on manufacturers’ guidelines.
Frozen food use-by-dates are commonly accepted as four weeks. This includes homemade food, such as dishes made to be frozen, or fresh produce which is bought in and then frozen. With lengthier use-by-dates it becomes important to ensure a good turnaround FIFO (first in first out) system. After all, one does not want excessive freezer space taken up and holding food which should be driving revenue. Ensuring anything homemade is adequately labelled is of course also a prerequisite to passing the food dating section of a kitchen audit.
2. Due Diligence Paperwork
Every food business must have some ways of checking that food is safe whilst in their ‘care’. To help with this, maintaining records from delivery to plate is both best practice and law. Type and depth of food safety paperwork does vary from business to business, but in essence one should have the following documentation completed, archived (for approximately six months) and accessible for inspection – be it by an auditor completing a kitchen audit or a local authority inspector, such as the EHO:
a) Fridge Temperatures
b) Freezer Temperatures
c) Core Tempos
d) Probe Calibration
e) Delivery records
f) Carvery food safety temperature sheet
g) Diary of events (when things went wrong and what was done to address and amend these incidents)
h) Opening and Closing checks
i) Cleaning Schedules (day / week / deep clean)
Additional checks may well be used too. These could include:
a). Vac Pac Records
b). Sous Vide Records
c). Shellfish Records
3. Cleanliness, Hygiene and Schedule Adherence
A kitchen audit will inspect whether all food preparation, cooking and storage areas are clean in accordance with the company’s specified cleaning schedule, which should be available on site. It will also looks at the availability of the correct and necessary chemicals (risk assessed), as well as training and safe using of cleaning materials and equipment. During a kitchen audit our consultants will ask staff the necessary questions to test their knowledge in this area. They will also visually check whether kitchen staff are adhering to best practice guidelines for all these areas.
4. Temperature Checks
Food temperatures are a vital way of ensuring food is safe for consumption. As part of a kitchen audit we check the records that are kept about dishes and their temperatures, as well as any relevant actions that were taken. Using probes, kitchen staff should regularly be checking core temperatures of food, in particular in regard to re-heated food.
Aside from regular temperature checks, we recommend calibrating (and recording) probes on a regular basis: at least weekly. This can be done by placing the probe stem into boiling hot water (take care) which should read above 100˚C and then placing the stem into iced water, for it to read 0˚C. If neither of these temperatures are reached then try changing the batteries. If still not to required temperatures you must replace the probe. Without proper evidence of a working probe your venue may fail its kitchen audit.
Finally, our kitchen audit will check whether you have correct sanitised probe wipes to hand to ensure probes are hygienically clean before they are used again.
5. Food Safety Staff Training
As part of a kitchen audit we’ll check that all kitchen based staff and manager on site have up-to-date and recognised training records. All staff should have Food Allergy Awareness training along with Level two / three formal Food Safety qualifications. These generally last three years so keeping track of appropriate qualifications is essential. If new employees join the team then the necessary checks and copies of certificates should be sought and kept on file.
6. Equipment Training
These days many sites have differing types of equipment. It is important that kitchen staff are aware of all the safety features available on equipment and that they know how to use equipment properly. Never assume! Always ensure that staff are trained in the correct and safe use of equipment, ideally recording that they have had that training. During a kitchen audit it is common that we will inspect these records and observe the safe handling of equipment by staff in your kitchens.
7. Allergen Checks
With the recent publicity surrounding allergens, our checks in this area during a kitchen audit have become more stringent. Staff should be following appropriate allergen procedures and safeguarding systems at all times. Primarily this involves staff having access to and being aware of the different allergens that can cause harm to customers with allergies. We will look at folders, access staff have to a computer and allergen posters, in order to assess how accessible allergen information is to staff.
Kitchen audits will include menu inspections to ensure dishes are clearly marked and that they fully outline ingredients. Statements encouraging customers to ‘seek advice from staff if unsure’ are always a recommendation for menus. It’s not uncommon for our consultants to check that staff know where to get information about allergens in dishes or what to do if they’re unsure. Staff should always know to speak to their kitchen team if they are not sure.
During the kitchen audit we will also assess the areas within the kitchen that have been designated as ‘allergen free’ or ‘allergen safe’ areas. At the very least, in these areas, foods containing allergens should be kept in marked, labelled and lidded boxes in a separate part of the storage area.
As mentioned in the previous point, official allergen training is checked during a kitchen audit. There is free training available via the FSA online which is a primary starting point for all staff to complete.
8. Deliveries of Food
The delivery process is also inspected during a kitchen audit. Your teams should always document and check that the goods which have been delivered are exactly what you ordered. Checking and recording, when taking goods, that they are within use-by date and in good condition is also vital. For example there should be no dents, no open packets, products should be supplied at the correct temperature, and there should be no stains on boxes. Where necessary recording temperatures on the delivery food safety sheet is a necessary part of your due diligence.
Finally, our kitchen audit will determine whether products have been stowed away in the correct places following delivery and within a reasonable timeframe. Records should be maintained to show food has not been left in incorrect places where temperature changes may have caused spoilage and increased growth of bacteria.
9. Following Guidance on Cooking Foods
The handling of high risk foods, such as burgers, chicken livers, fish items is also looked at during a kitchen audit. These foods in particular must be cooked properly and cooked through as per the guidance provided within the food safety policy. HACCP should also be in place for those dishes to ensure awareness of these high risk foods and to prove that your kitchen staff prepare, cook and serve all dishes as required.
10. The Team
Beyond some of the previously mentioned areas, we also do further checks on staff. We’ve already mentioned testing the team’s knowledge of food safety, whether they have a good understanding of all due diligence paperwork, if they hold the correct, in-date and pertinent qualifications and how confident they are in the site’s systems, policy and controls. The kitchen audit will even go as far as to investigate any concerns which staff themselves raise about the standards of food safety.
Perhaps the most obvious check we carry out on staff during the kitchen audit though, is to inspect their attire. This will look at whether staff work in appropriate, safe, clean clothing and foot wear for example.
Why do a kitchen audit?
If we were to complete a kitchen audit in your establishment, what compliance score would you expect to find? With an all year round emphasis on food safety and hygiene you can be more confident that your venues are protected in a legal sense and that your customers are kept safe at all times. Staying on top of these 10 areas will help you do just that. Our kitchen audits and associated advice and coaching can help keep you on track. Get a quote for your business by filling in your details in the form on this page. Or, to find out more about what our food hygiene and safety services include, visit our services page here.