Most people are now familiar with the ‘scores on the doors’ scheme. The initiative was introduced by the Food Standards Agency, an independent Government body that protects consumers’ interests by helping to ensure food safety. The scheme awards food service establishments with a rating, which summarises the business’ hygiene standards.
Food hygiene ratings, those recognisable green stickers that rank an organisation from 0 to 5, are the decision of the local authority. A hygiene officer will inspect a premises, basing their final rating on a number of factors. Five is the highest score a business can achieve and is given only for ‘’very good’’ hygiene standards. A rating of zero, however, is given when ‘’urgent improvement’’ is necessary. The scheme applies to all businesses which sell food, though some are inspected more frequently. Local shops which sell only pre-packaged foods are considered lower risk. Organisations which operate a commercial kitchen, however, can expect more regular inspections.
If the hygiene officer gives a low rating, they will usually explain how improvements can be made. They will provide a timescale to improve their hygiene standards before visiting again to ensure that the correct steps have been taken.
How do the ratings impact your business?
In some cases, the officer might take immediate action, which can be as serious as ordering the business to cease trading. This occurs only in the most severe circumstances, where it is felt that there’s an immediate risk to health.
In some parts of the country, it is mandatory for businesses to display their food hygiene rating in a prominent place. The information is also readily available online, so a poor rating can seriously impact a business’ reputation. A good rating, however, can be used to reaffirm an organisation’s high standards and can be used in marketing materials.
How can you get a good rating?
Food hygiene officers look at three main areas.
- How food is handled
This is largely about ensuring that all food is safe to eat. All food should be kept at a safe temperature, and in reasonable storage space. It must be prepared in a safe, clean environment, and properly cooked. If food is reheated, officers will check that this is carried out correctly. In a restaurant, the actual food that is prepared will dictate exactly how it should be handled.
- The cleanliness of the business
Beyond ensuring that the area is suitably cleaned, officers will look more widely to the equipment being used. Ventilation, lighting and other facilities should be suitable for the service being provided. The layout of the area should also be appropriate, and where there is a risk of insects or rodents contaminating food, reasonable pest control measures should in place.
- Management of food safety
The officer will look at the procedures you have in place to ensure that excellent hygiene standards are sustained. This includes measures such as employee training and how organisations ensure that their hygiene standards are being upheld.
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