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What is a Food Hygiene Rating?

At Buddy, we understand what matters when it comes to Food Hygiene and what it takes for a business to improve their food hygiene rating.   The Food Hygiene rating scheme is widely recognised throughout the UK, and a lot of customers consider it as a deciding factor when choosing where to eat.  However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what the rating actually means and what it represents.  

In this article, we will discuss what the ratings mean and if you are a business owner wanting to improve your rating we will advise how best to do this.  If you haven’t already, please see our business page with more details on our services.

What is the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme?

The scheme is run by the Food Standards Agency. This is led by the government and operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland has a similar system called the Food Hygiene Information Scheme). The scheme is dedicated to assessing hygiene levels anywhere which serves food to customers such as: restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars, fast-food outlets, takeaways, mobile food trucks, kitchens, hospitals, schools and supermarkets.  

Put simply, the rating reflects the standards of food hygiene found on the date of the inspection by the Environmental Health Food Safety Officer. The purpose of the scheme is dedicated to assessing hygiene levels and making sure food in the UK is safe to consume. A common misconception is that ratings reflect the food and customer experience. The food hygiene rating is not a guide to food quality or customer service.

Sourced via Getty Images

What Happens at a Food Hygiene Inspection?

There are no set time frames between food hygiene inspections. Food hygiene inspections very rarely happen as a planned appointment and inspectors are permitted to visit at any reasonable hour, usually without warning.  Undoubtedly the element of surprise and mystery will make any business owner feel apprehensive about an inspection.  However, it is essential that the inspector is seeing the same standard any customer would experience.  

They’re permitted to inspect any element of the food production chain. All inspectors must follow the Food Law Code of Practice. Your premises, food, records and procedures can be inspected. Food samples can also be taken as well as photographed.

When an inspector visits, they will focus on three core aspects of how the business implements safe practices of food hygiene. These are:

  • Hygienic Food Handling– This includes the preparation and cooking of food and how it is subsequently reheated and cooled. Food storage is also included in this aspect of the inspection.
  • Physical Condition of the Premises and Facilities– This includes the facilities, the layout of the premises, its ventilation and lighting. This aspect focuses on the cleanliness and also what measures have been considered for pest control.
  • Food Safety Management-The inspector will be looking for what evidence and controls the business takes to keep food safe.  This will be looking at aspects such as HACCP systems, staff training and logs of relevant checks.

You may like: Who is responsible for food safety?

What Happens after a Food Hygiene Inspection?

After the inspection, a letter will be sent confirming any required improvements and a business will be given a food hygiene grade which is based on how well they comply with food safety law.  The overall grade is calculated based on the inspector’s score of the premises from 25 (very poor) to 0 (perfect). The inspector uses the Food Law Code of Practice to score accordingly. Scores are finalised by adding together the points scored from the three categories mentioned above.

What Does Each Food Hygiene Rating Mean?

A Food Hygiene Rating of 5

This rating means that the business was seen as very good. Businesses who score between 0 and 15 will receive a 5, which reflects the excellent standards they maintain in their premises. All businesses should aim to attain and retain a 5 food hygiene rating.

A Food Hygiene Rating of 4

4 means good on assessment. Receiving a 4 means the business scored a total of 20 points. This will mean that the business has a good understanding of food hygiene practices and safety systems, with only a few minor areas for improvement.

A Food Hygiene Rating of 3

The business has been deemed to be generally satisfactory. Businesses will receive a 3 if they score between 25 and 30 and their practices are overall good for maintaining safety standards. There will be room for improvement and suggestions will be made but nothing which poses an immediate threat to health.

A Food Hygiene Rating of 2

If rated 2 it means that improvements are necessary. It means the inspector scored the business between 35- 40. Without getting too specific, it will have meant that the inspector saw cause for concern and warrants a prompt change.

A Food Hygiene Rating of 1

A grading of 1 means that major improvements are necessary. A business will receive a 1 rating if they score between 45 and 50 points.  This would indicate there has been breaches to food hygiene and a lack of knowledge and training among staff members.

A Food Hygiene Rating of 0

If rated zero it means that there are some urgent improvements required.   If a business fails to keep food safety records or work in a safe environment it could seriously put people’s health at immediate risk.

How to Promote a Food Hygiene Rating

The food industry has changed dramatically in recent years. With more choice available to customers more than ever before. With new apps emerging including Justeat and Deliveroo enabling food delivery at our fingertips, it has meant customers rely heavily on reviews and are looking for excellence when choosing where to eat.    A high food hygiene rating can be promoted and help increase the number of customers who come through the door or order online.  The Food Standard agency has a helpful guide on how to promote your rating, click here for more information

How to Improve a Food Hygiene Rating

Not paying attention to your food hygiene rating can be critically unsafe but also deter customers from visiting and will inevitably be bad for your businesse’s bottom line.  If you want to improve your score take a look at the government’s checklist here. Here is some additional advice Buddy can offer to help improve a food hygiene rating:

Look at your most recent inspection improvements

If there are some obvious improvements to make from the last inspection, make them. Then focus on the three areas the inspector assess when they visit.  These are:  Hygienic Food Handling, Physical Condition of the Premises and Facilities & Food Safety Management. A member of our team can also help advise more specifcally about each area if you need help.

Staff Training

It is one of the simplest ways to fix and improve a hygiene rating.  Yes, it mind sound cheesy but knowledge is power. Investing the time to educate a team in safe food handling procedures means it will be implemented and executed to a high standard.   We would recommend a level 2 food safety course for team members, and a level 3 food safety for managers or supervisors. 

image sourced via shutterstock

Need to Book a Training Course?

We offer a range of courses across food safety and Health & Safety, delivered either via classroom or online. Furthermore, we help businesses with bespoke solutions for their food safety procedures and can offer consultation if required. We can train teams and offer a discount on bulk learner bookings. We are a Highfield Learning accredited centre and operate nationwide across the UK. Get in touch with a member of our team to find out more today!

Images via Pixabay and Unsplash

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