I’ve worked within the Environmental Health Service since 2013. I first became interested in Environmental Health during a careers evening in secondary school, and then went on to do work experience in the subject. This cemented my love for the job.
As a youngster I loved being outdoors, was fascinated by the natural world, sciences and geography. As I grew older, this developed into an aspiration to impact positively on our environment and to protect public health. The thought of not being stuck in an office 5 days a week was quite appealing too!
I graduated with a degree in Environmental Health at Cardiff Metropolitan University. This was a four year sandwich degree with a year out working within Local Authority.
Making a positive impact
My work gives me an opportunity to meet and communicate with a wide variety of individuals and businesses in communities throughout Ceredigion.
Although it’s a challenging role, it provides ample opportunities for problem solving, which ultimately makes a difference to people’s lives.
I was once told that, during each day in the lifetime of every man, woman and child, an Environmental Health Practitioner would have had an influence on their lives somehow; whether it is the standard of the home they live in, the safety of the water they drink, the quality of the air they breathe, making sure they are safe at work, the hygiene of the food they eat, preventing the spread of disease or improving their health and well-being. Helping to ensure all these factors are addressed is why I enjoy my job so much.
One of my favourite aspects of the job is working as part of a team. Within the Council, I am part of the Commercial Services Team. We’re a small team of eleven officers who specialise in Food Hygiene, Infectious Diseases, Health and Safety and Animal Health across the county.
Being part of a team helps with knowing that you don’t have to face the challenges the role brings alone. I’m very fortunate to be part of a fantastic team who are highly experienced and dedicated.
This is not a role in which you are isolated; I work closely with many different sections of the Council, including Legal Services, Licencing, Trading Standards, Planning, Education and Corporate Health and Safety. We also work closely with other local authorities and organisations.
Each day is like a box of chocolates; you’re never really sure what you’re going to get!
My background and training allows me to transfer skills to a wide variety of situations in order to carry out the duties of the Council relating to both Human and Animal Health protection.
A majority of my proactive work revolves around carrying out Food Hygiene Inspections at commercial food businesses within Ceredigion. These can range from small domestic cake bakers to large food factories. Essentially, anywhere or anyone that produces food other than for their family will have an inspection.
I am responsible for providing the food businesses with a food hygiene rating of between 0 and 5. 0 means urgent improvement is necessary and up to 5 which means very good. We benefit from the backing of strong legislation which, among other things, allows us to enter food premises unannounced. The element of surprise paints a true picture!
The majority of food business in Ceredigion are scored highly, with a large number achieving a Food Hygiene Rating of 5, although there are of course the exceptions. Any food business found not to be displaying a valid or correct Food Hygiene Rating sticker are given an on the spot fine (Fixed Penalty Notice) of £200.
Alongside these proactive inspections, I also undertake a lot of reactive work. This reactive work is what makes the job unpredictable.
The work could include investigating complaints made against food businesses, cases of illegal meat trade, suspected cases of food poisoning, occurrences of food fraud or incidences that jeopardise food hygiene or public health.
Environmental Health Practitioners have legal powers to back up their actions. In extreme circumstances, if a food business is found to be breaking the law, we have powers to close premises down immediately in order to protect public health and can prosecute offenders. We can also seize and detain food indefinitely to determine whether it is safe, and where necessary dispose of it. When legal proceedings happen, I would be responsible for putting together a legal case file.
Health and safety
As part of my job, I am also responsible for enforcing Health and Safety legislation within Ceredigion. The majority of this involves reacting to workplace accidents that occur to both employees and members of the public. The severity of these accidents can range from broken bones to fatalities.
Another key element of my work is the coordination of the investigation and control of infectious diseases. The team is notified daily of specific diseases and illnesses that pose a risk to public health, such as E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter to name a few.
We have a legal duty to investigate confirmed and suspected cases, and control the spread of these diseases. A classic at this time of the year is the spread of a viral illness called Norovirus (known more commonly as the winter vomiting bug). This virus can spread quickly and is often found within educational and care facilities. When an outbreak is declared, we react immediately along with other organisations to identify the source and prevent the spread of the illness.
Don’t be a turkey this Christmas!
With the run up to Christmas, it’s easy to get side-tracked but it’s important to remember that food hygiene is paramount, especially now where many people will be eating out, partying and enjoying the festivities. Don’t let food poisoning ruin your Christmas, and look at the Food Hygiene Rating before you book a reservation!
We inspect food businesses on three major areas, Hygiene, Structure and Confidence in Management; a Food Hygiene Rating of 2 or below means that the food business is failing in one or more of these areas. Look out for the green and black sticker, which should be clearly displayed at the entrance of the food business.
Alternatively, you can easily check the food hygiene ratings of Ceredigion food businesses on the FSA website www.food.gov.uk/ratings