Prohibition is the official act of denying, disallowing or preventing a person or an entity from carrying out specific activities. In terms of Regulation R638 of 2018, a prohibition on the handling and transportation of food may be issued by Environmental Health Inspectors (EHI). They may decide to issue a prohibition order to the Person In Charge with assistance from law enforcement agencies. The EHP will do that if they believe that the food handling environment may jeopardise the safe handling of food, leading to a consumer health risk.
What is the Procedure for issuing Prohibition?
The Prohibition may be issued if the Health Practitioner has reasonable grounds to believe the premises could risk consumer health. The local authority may summarily prohibit using the food premises or facility for handling food or any activity relating to handling food. The Prohibition will be issued in writing to the owner or the person in charge, informing them of the reasons for the Prohibition. Prohibition comes into operation from the time and date on which a prohibition order is served under.
How long does the Prohibition last?
Prohibition is effective immediately when it is issued. The Person In Charge of the concerned food establishment will be given a notice period to rectify the condition that led to such a prohibition order. The prohibition period or duration will vary from one situation to another. A person is guilty of an offence if they perform an act contrary to a prohibition order.
Conditions that will lead to a prohibition order issued:
The following conditions and circumstances could suffice an inspector to issue a prohibition letter to the food facility concerned as per Regulation 4 of R638:
2(a) the condition of the food premise;
If the condition of the food premise is in such a manner that it poses a danger to consumer health, the EHI may prohibit trading. An example will be if the food handling premises are built to have a real risk of food contamination.
2(b) how the facility is used;
Food facilities shall be kept under the highest standard of hygiene and be used for the purpose it was intended for. Suppose an EHI establish that a food premise is also used for sleeping purposes, then they can decide to issue a prohibition order to stop operations.
2(c) the food premise does not comply with the regulation under R638;
Legally, it is required that every food facility attain its Certificate of Acceptability (COA) from the local authority or municipality before selling food to the public. Upon random inspection, an inspector may issue a food facility with a probation order to continue trading until it attains its COA.
2(d) how a particular activity takes place regarding food handling and the circumstances about a food premise.
Food must be protected from physical chemicals, allergens and biological hazards. For example, suppose the EHI believes that pest infestation in an FHO will impact the safety of food. In that case, they may temporarily issue the facility with a prohibition order.
2(e) of the circumstances that exist concerning the food premises or facility or any other activity
The circumstances surrounding the food premise could warrant an EHI to order the business to close down in an event where the external environment has excessive dust, soot deposit, offensive odours etc. Once an inspector has issued a food premise with a prohibition order following the above circumstances and conditions regarding the facility, it is prudent to know that the prohibition order comes into operation or becomes effective immediately. It is an offence to act against the probation order; therefore, a person would be found guilty contrary to such a charge.
What are the Corrective actions for the Prohibition?
The person in charge of the affected food premise, after rectifying the condition which led to the issuing of a prohibition order, in writing, may request the removal of the prohibition order. Within three working days of receiving a written request to remove the prohibition order, the inspector must investigate the food facility to verify if the circumstances that gave rise to the Prohibition are rectified. Upon completion of the investigation by the inspector, the local authority must inform the owner of the food premises in writing that the prohibition order has been withdrawn or remains.
In essence, it is the consumers right to be provided with safe and quality food that does not pose any health risks. Therefore, an inspector acts in the best interest of the consumers by ensuring that FHO is fully compliant with regulation R638. In addition, complying with the regulation will benefit the food premise extensively in enhancing hygiene practices and food safety practices. This increases the consumers’ confidence in the brand and/or product and the business.