The Food Hygiene Ratings scheme

Very important to both industry (ie the producer) and the general public (ie the consumer). Let’s take a look.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities. It is used to assess the level of food safety compliance within businesses where food is supplied, sold or consumed. With the aim of improving overall food hygiene standards for consumers and providing enough information so that they can make an informed decision on where to eat and drink.

Food Hygiene ratings are given to businesses based on the findings of a food safety inspection by the local authority.

The inspection assesses how the business is performing and operating when compared to Food Safety Regulations and best practices. This means that ratings are a snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection. It may be the case that the business in question would be more compliant on any other day other than the one the inspection took place but it is the responsibility of the business to comply with food hygiene law at all times.

The inspection includes:

  • how hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
  • the physical condition of the business – including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control and other facilities
  • how the business manages ways of keeping food safe, looking at processes, training and systems to ensure good hygiene is maintained. The officer can then assess the level of confidence in standards being maintained in the future.

The rating system:
The scheme gives businesses a rating from 0 to 5 which is displayed at their premises and online so the public can make more informed choices about where to buy and eat food.

5 – hygiene standards are very good

4 – hygiene standards are good

3 – hygiene standards are generally satisfactory

2 – some improvement is necessary

1 – major improvement is necessary

0 – urgent improvement is required

According to one study in 2017, 75 per cent of people would either never visit a food outlet implicated in a food poisoning/hygiene incident, or would only do so if it had changed hands. 61 per cent of people won’t knowingly visit a restaurant of any sort that has a food hygiene rating of three or less. 

Food ratings don’t provide information on the quality of food, customer service, culinary skill or venue presentation nevertheless it turns out cleanliness and food hygiene ratings have more of an influence than customer service or any other factor when a customer is deciding whether to return to a cafe, restaurant or bar. It’s easy to see how food hygiene standards are so vital to a business’ success. 

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