The Food Hygiene Rating scheme exists so that consumers can make an informed choice about where they purchase food, be it from a restaurant, takeaway, hotel or supermarket.
By having a nationwide scheme, consumers can easily see what the hygiene standards are and can choose to instead use a business with a higher rating. This encourages business to improve standards to avoid losing customers to rivals with higher ratings.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is overseen by the Food Standards Agency working with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A similar scheme called the Food Hygiene Information Scheme is run in Scotland.
The Food Standards Agency provides training, advice and support to these local authorities to enable them to provide a consistent rating service across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Each local authority is responsible for inspecting all food businesses to ensure that they meet legal requirements relating to food safety. They give these businesses ratings based on these inspections. Businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are required by law to display their ranking in a prominent position.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run in all areas of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A similar scheme called the Food Hygiene Information Scheme is run in Scotland.
Businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are required by law to display their ranking in a prominent position.
Food Hygiene Ratings are given to any place outside of the home where you can eat such as restaurants, takeaways, cafés, coffee shops, pubs, hotels, schools, hospitals and residential care homes. Also rated is anywhere you can shop for food to eat later, such as supermarkets, bakeries, and delicatessens.
Some businesses are exempt from the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. This is generally because they are a low risk to people’s health, for example, a Tourist Information Centre selling tins of biscuits. Childminders and businesses that provide caring services at home are not given ratings.
Every rated business is visited by a Food Safety Officer from their local authority who complete a full food hygiene inspection. This inspection focuses on three areas:
Based on the inspection of these three points a score from zero to five is given. To achieve a score of five, "Very Good" top scores in each of these areas is required, however it is possible for any business no matter its size to achieve this score, and you can be confident in the hygiene standards at any business which does so. A business ranked zero, "Urgent Improvement required"" will be subject to enforcement action by the local authority to bring standards up to the required standard.
Each rating is a reflection of the standards found at the time of inspection by a specially trained Food Safety Officer. Consumers can you this combined with previous ratings to build a picture of the consistency of food safety at each business.
There are six numbered ratings:
Businesses not included in the scheme can show a rating of “Exempt” and new businesses can display “Awaiting Inspection”
The score reflects how well a business rates against the three inspection focus (See How is the Food Hygiene Rating calculated?) and the risk to the public any issues pose. To score a five a business must score highly in all three areas, likewise a business scoring a zero is likely to be failing in all areas.
All ratings given since April 2016 include a breakdown for each of the three inspection focus areas. For more information including the Food Safety Officers report you can make a Freedom of Information request to the local authority who completed the inspection. How often are Food Hygiene Ratings given?
A new rating is given every time a business is inspected by a Food Safety officer. The frequency of inspections depends on the potential risk from each businesses food handling activities. A business the sells both raw and cooked meats is a much higher public risk then one which sells only pre-packaged sandwiches and will therefore be inspected more regularly. In general the time between visits can be as little as every six months for very high risk businesses up to two years for low risk business, however for very low risk premises it can be longer then this.
Anyone who receives a ranking of zero or one must make urgent improvements to there food hygiene standards, and the Food Safety Officer will set a time limit for these improvement and can use any of a large number of enforcement options to ensure these are made.
If an immediate danger to the public's health is discovered during a inspection, i.e. the food is unsafe to eat, then the officer will take immediate action to protect the public, this can include ordering the business closed until improvements are made.
Whilst improvements are ongoing consumers can use the ranking to inform there decision of where to eat.
A rating is valid until a new inspection takes place. As the time between inspections varies with high risk businesses having more regular inspections, this can be some time. Local authorities monitor hygiene standards in other ways during this time, including short visits and monitoring complaints. If anything suggests a change in standards then a inspection will take place and a new rating given.
If you have any concerns about food hygiene standards you should contact your local authority.
All businesses are able to achieve a top ranking of Very Good, the inspector will inform the business of what improvements need to be made to do so at the time of inspection and assistance is available online.
You can search the database of all rankings.
In Northern Ireland and Wales rankings must be displayed by law. In England currently ratings do not have to be displayed although the Food Standards Agency is currently preparing the case for legislation to change this. However any business with a high score would be proud to display their rating so the lack of display can still inform consumer choice.
When a business is new it will not have a Food Hygiene Rating when it first opens. They will show a rating of Awaiting Inspection until and inspection is completed. In Wales the rating will read Rating Awaited.
Some businesses are exempt from the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. This is generally because they are a low risk to people's health, for example, a Tourist Information Centre selling tins of biscuits. Childminders and businesses that provide caring services at home are not given ratings.
The details of businesses in the Food Hygiene Ranking Scheme are drawn directly from the local authorities involved in the scheme. You should contact your local authority and ask them to update their records.
If a business receives a ranking below five they have the right to appeal or respond. Online rankings are not updated until the time allowed for businesses to do so has passed. Also every local authority is responsible for publishing their results and each do this to their own schedule, some update daily whilst others only publish results monthly.
If you believe that a business is fraudulently showing an incorrect ranking you should report them to the issuing local authority, details of whom can be found on each businesses ranking page.
You can appeal your rating by contacting your local authorities lead Food Safety Officer. You also have the separate “Right of Reply” this gives you the chance to explain any exceptional circumstances that may have affected your rating. This reply will then be published with your rating.
You can request a revisit by contacting your local authority. However they will only do so if you have made all improvements noted of your previous inspection report.