How does the Food Hygiene Rating System Work?

You will have stumbled across those green stickers in shop’s or restaurant’s windows at while out eating or shopping, but what do they actually mean?

Any business that prepares, produces or handles food, whether supplied, sold, or consumed, is required by the law to have a rating. It’s an indication of how well the business is doing in compliance with food hygiene laws and standards. It helps customers make informed choices on where to eat. Don’t be fooled though, it’s not a rating on the quality of food or customer satisfaction! Luckily for all those food lovers out there, this information is easily accessible by simply looking at the food provider’s windows or door or a quick search on the Food Standards Agency website at: https://ratings.food.gov.uk/.

So does this affect your future as a business?? The answer is absolutely! A customer may glance at your window, look at the rating, look up your business online, check reviews, and based on this, decide whether they trust your food over your competitor’s. Therefore, you must understand the system so you can use it to your advantage. Never underestimate the power of the internet!

How do the food hygiene ratings work? 

It is a government-backed scheme managed by the Food Standards Agency that runs across England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. It provides information on food hygiene standards at the premises during the environmental health officer’s (EHO) visit. 

An EHO will visit your premises and and look at the following key elements: 

  1. How hygienically the food is handled: how it’s prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled, and stored
  2. The physical condition of the premises: cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control, and other facilities
  3. Management: keeping the food safe, taking into account the process, training, documentation and systems in place to ensure good hygiene is maintained.

The EHO then makes a judgement based on what they have seen and their confidence in these levels being maintained in the future, providing advice and guidelines on necessary improvements specific to the inspection. A Food Hygiene Rating Score (FHRS) is then calculated.

Food Hygiene Rating Scores

The system gives a rating from 5 to 0. To be clear, the higher the rating, the more safe the food served is to eat. Here is a rough breakdown of what each rating means… 

Food hygiene rating 5

The highest possible score for Food Hygiene Ratings: you demonstrate excellent hygiene standards at your premises. A score of 5 is what all businesses should aspire to achieve. You’ll be rewarded with a 5 if you score between 0 and 15 points. 

Food hygiene rating 4

Close, but no cigar. A score of 4 means you have good hygiene standards, but there are a few areas for improvement with little concern for food hygiene. Scoring 20 points will give you a rating of 4. 

Food hygiene rating 3

A score of 3 will brand you with generally satisfactory hygiene standards, scoring between 25 and 30 in an inspection. You maintain overall good food safety standards, with room for improvement and no immediate threat to consumers. 

Food hygiene rating 2

This score means that improvements are necessary, and is given to businesses that score between 35 and 40. You can expect this rating if there are causes of concern in handling processes and outdated equipment. 

Food hygiene rating 1

A business with a rating of 1 will score between 45 and 50 points. In this case, major improvements are necessary and suggest several breaches to food hygiene and a lack of staff training.  

Food hygiene rating 0

Not the desired outcome. Generally means urgent action is necessary. This score is given to those who score 50 points or more, which means that there are a considerable amount of safety breaches that put an individual’s health at immediate risk and the food is unsafe to eat. The outcome is dependent on the type of issue but often results in part or full closure of the business. 

How do I get a Food Hygiene sticker?

By law, all food businesses need to register with their Local Authority within 28 days of opening. Once you’ve registered your business with your local authority, an environmental health officer will be sent to your premises and will assess how well you meet hygiene standards. Following completion, you will receive a report letter regarding your inspection, details of necessary improvements and criticisms, and be awarded your food hygiene rating and sticker. The back of the sticker and online will also show the date of inspection. It is a legal requirement to display your sticker on your premises in Northern Ireland and Wales, but at present, not in England. Although, it is highly encouraged for customer perception purposes.

How to get a food hygiene rating of 5?

So you may be asking yourself, how do I make sure I am rewarded with a rating of 5? All the three elements mentioned previously must be met. 

Here are 5 top tips to ensure you score that desired 5…

  1. Maintain a safe food storage system 
  2. Train your staffs 
  3. Focus on cleanliness 
  4. Ensure hygienic food preparation 
  5. Records kept up to date and accurate

We’ll cover the above and more in our next blog post: How to be Food Inspection Ready.

Prepare for your next inspection

Improve your hygiene rating and prepare for your next food hygiene inspection with our food hygiene pre-inspection tool, GRAPE PREPARE. Follow step by step questions and a checklist, upload photos and digital evidence of what you do to comply with food safety. You can then share your checklist with your inspector and get feedback.

For more information and guidance on the food hygiene rating system and meeting the hygiene standards, please visit https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-hygiene-rating-scheme

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