My Mission as a Food Safety and Hygiene Specialist

Who am I?

My name is Sandra Zirolyte (Catering and Cleaning Inspection Officer), and I specialise in food safety and premises hygiene. I work for The Education Space and I work with educational settings and schools to ensure they meet food safety standards and hygiene within their kitchens/dining areas and cleaning standards within their premises. I have over 10 years experience within this profession and enjoy my work and working with education settings and stakeholders.

I work alongside school professionals and other stakeholders to ensure that together we help create a safer and healthier environment for children and staff, while ensuring that food safety laws and cleaning standards are being met.

What gets me excited about my job is that every single day is a new adventure and brings new challenges. The challenges and problem solving that arise from visits to educational settings and meeting new people together with the insights I gain into various businesses and their day-to-day struggles keep things fresh and engaging.

When inspecting schools, I am there to assess the business and identify any food safety risks. I assess how the company complies with food safety requirements and the quality of food safety management processes. Also, I give caterers and schools information and advice on my observations to help educate them and teach them processes and methods that will help ensure that their foods are safe, followed by a detailed report about how food safety practices are being adhered to. Communication is always at the forefront and a key part of my role is to be supportive, provide assistance and advice together with recommendations.

What happens during the catering and cleaning audits?

During my inspections, I work closely with food business operators/stakeholders to gain an understanding of their operations and methods. I thoroughly examine food delivery areas, storage facilities, preparation and production areas, and service areas. I evaluate essential factors such as temperature, hygiene, staff training, safety protocols, allergen controls, pest management and waste disposal. There will be other factors I also take into consideration and this is dependent on the premises, staffing, equipment, information received from partners etc. Throughout the inspection, I also review any relevant documents. Once the inspection is complete, I cross-check these records to ensure they match up with my observations.

To assess cleaning standards, I visit the school before it opens for students. This allows me more freedom to check around without disturbing others and ensure that teaching and learning is not disrupted. I also require photographic evidence and this time of day allows me to do this. I chose random areas throughout the school, including multiple classrooms, toilets, halls, and COSHH cupboards. If the standards are not met, I identify them and make recommendations for corrective actions to ensure they are met.

I firmly believe that external independent audits (independent of the school and independent of the provider) and inspections are crucial reality checks for businesses. They provide an unbiased assessment of where things stand, highlighting strengths and uncovering areas that are weak/hazardous and need attention.