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Day in the life of food hygiene inspector Wendy Osmond from Canterbury City Council

By Rebecca Tuffin

By Rebecca Tuffin and Aleeza Shah

For those working in catering, the prospect of a food hygiene inspection might be pretty daunting.

No matter how many plates are scrubbed or date labels are stuck on cartons, some Kent restaurant owners feel they just can't win and are given low scores unfairly.

But what's the food inspectors' side of the story?

A day in the life of a food hygiene inspector

Wendy Osmond has worked for Canterbury City Council for 18 years, and has been a food hygiene inspector for 11 of these.

She had an inspection planned for The King's School.

The independent boarding school received a five star rating after Wendy's last visit but there was still a little apprehension in the air as she met head chef of Precincts, Mark Williams, and director of catering, Kerry Reed, in the school office.

Wendy was charming, friendly and quite clearly did not want the staff to feel nervous.

Wendy Osmond, food hygiene inspector
Wendy Osmond, food hygiene inspector

However, as soon as she pulled on her white hat and whipped out her clip board, the mood became a tad more serious.

Heading for the kitchen, Wendy explained there are three key areas for an inspection - structure, management and of course, hygiene.

She said: "My primary role is to ensure any food is safe to eat and doesn't make people unwell.

"An inspection can be very easy going as long as there are no major cleanliness or structural problems.

"Inspections are always unannounced and we do have a right of entry, but if it looks really busy then we might leave it and come back another day - we don't want to catch people out."

Head chef of Precincts, Mark Williams and director of catering, Kerry Reed
Head chef of Precincts, Mark Williams and director of catering, Kerry Reed

Mark took Wendy into the huge Precincts kitchen, with enormous fridges and 10ft stainless steel worktops.

The ex-Navy chef is used to keeping the place ship-shape.

He normally caters for 800 to 1,000 children every day.

Wendy began looking under counters and peaking in bowls - every nook and cranny must be checked.

Having completely separate areas for the preparation and storage of raw meat pleased her, as did the heaps of neat paperwork.

"Once, I remember walking into a kitchen just as the chef ran out the back door and hopped on his motorbike" - Wendy Osmond

She was a little concerned about a few blue beads from the dishwasher which had embedded themselves into the storeroom floor but Mark assured her the problem had been fixed.

Wendy even went so far as to inspect the screw heads on a clad wall.

All in all, the kitchen was clean and organised, with paperwork filled out correctly.

Wendy said: "It's more difficult to get five stars in an old building but it's still possible.

"It's very hard for King's having about 150 children with allergies and things changing on a daily basis.

The King's School, Canterbury. Picture: Google street view
The King's School, Canterbury. Picture: Google street view

"A kitchen doesn't have to be perfect to get a top rating - then can be a few minor issues."

King's maintained its top score of five stars.

But of course, Wendy has seen her fair share of filthy kitchens.

She said: "We've all come across a few cockroaches in our time but we work with premises to resolve this.

"Once, I remember walking into a kitchen just as the chef ran out the back door and hopped on his motorbike.

"He knew it was going to be bad - the kitchen was dirty with out of date food and little paperwork."

Wendy enjoys her job and asks for anyone worried about an inspection to simply call and ask questions.

She added: "We are happy to help as much as we can - we are not out to get anyone."

To see the 27 restaurants in Kent which have turned around poor hygiene ratings in the last 18 months, click here

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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