Good food hygiene is essential to any food business. It not only ensures that the food served is safe to eat, but it also helps with customer confidence and can be a great way to promote a business.
Food Hygiene Ratings are given by Enforcement Officers following a food hygiene inspection. The business will be assessed on the basis of:
- hygiene of the premises, including cleanliness and pest control
- hygiene practices and
- “confidence in management.”
Recently a business owner got into very deep water when they were awarded a Food Hygiene Rating of One (the range is from the lowest, 0 to the highest, 5), and then on a later inspection, they received a Zero. Instead of taking this as a good hint to improve his hygiene he apparently advertised his restaurant on the basis that he had a 5 rating. He ended up with a fine of over £3000 for the business, over £1000 personally and costs of over £4000; the business subsequently went into receivership. But the story didn’t end there: the owner was then banned from running or being involved in any business for 5 years.
This bears as a stark reminder just how serious food hygiene ratings are. For any business that sells or serves food achieving a good food hygiene rating should be a top priority, and they should never try to pretend that their real rating is higher than the one given by the Environmental Health Department. In any case consumers can always check online what score a premise has received via the FSA website, ratings.food.gov.uk. In Wales and Northern Ireland, where there is mandatory display of the rating sticker, action has been taken where businesses have refused to display.
To achieve a good Food Hygiene Rating, the business would be well advised to follow the UKHospitality Catering Industry Guide which details not only what is required for compliance with the law, but also specifies what best practice would be.
The food business operator needs to show a willingness to comply. Top issues include:
- a documented Food Safety Management System
- records up to date and demonstration of accuracy
- staff are trained and can demonstrate an understanding of what needs to be done to serve safe food
- a pest free environment
- no risk of cross-contamination
- clean and well-maintained premises
The scheme was developed to encourage food businesses to improve and give consumers confidence in hygiene. Most businesses would want to aim for a 5, and in many chains, it is a key performance indicator. However, if you find you have received a poor score you have some options. You can ask an independent adviser to help you out (UKH can give advice over the phone in some cases) or you can ask one of our partner organisations to come and visit to offer assistance. Alternatively, if you think you don’t deserve the score, you have the opportunity to appeal. If you understand what you need to do to put things right, after doing the work, you can apply to have a re-inspection so that you can hopefully get a better score next time.
Many local authorities make a charge for this re-inspection and this varies from one local authority to another based on a “cost recovery” basis. UKH is investigating this at the moment as the range has been reported to be from £90 to £330.