A good food hygiene rating can help you keep your customers and attract new business
What does a business need to do to get the top food hygiene rating?
All business should be able to get the top rating of 5. To get this, you must be able to demonstrate very good compliance with legal requirements for food hygiene. The level of compliance will be assessed by the food safety officer when your business is inspected.
How is this assessed?
Your food hygiene rating is based on the level of compliance in three areas:
- how hygienically the food is handled - safe food preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage
- the condition of the structure of the premises - cleanliness, repair, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
- how you manage what you do to make sure food is safe and so that the officer can be confident standards will be maintained in the future
Good food hygiene is easier to spot
How can a business demonstrate that food is handled hygienically?
You can do this by showing, for example, that:
- there are high standards of personal hygiene of staff – for example, clean over clothing (such as aprons), appropriate headwear, minimal jewellery and regular and appropriate hand-washing;
- control measures are in place to prevent cross contamination – for example, use of separate areas and equipment for handling and preparing raw and cooked foods, and correct use of appropriate cleaning chemicals;
- foods are stored at the correct temperature – for example, food stored in fridges is maintained at less than 8°C and that the chill chain is protected;
- foods are properly cooked, re-heated and cooled – for example, foods are cooked to 75°C or hotter and are checked visually for signs of thorough cooking, and foods are cooled quickly to 8°C or below and kept at a safe temperature until used
What about the condition and structure of the premises?
There should, for example, be:
- a suitable structure which is clean and in good repair throughout the premises;
- adequate natural/artificial lighting and ventilation
- adequate proofing against pest entry
- adequate facilities including: wash basins, toilet(s) and, where necessary, sink(s)
What about how the business manages and documents what it does to make sure food is safe?
It is a legal requirement for most food businesses to provide documentary evidence that the food they produce is safe. This should:
- identify and show an understanding of the food safety hazards (microbiological, physical and chemical) within the business;
- provide evidence that measures have been taken to effectively control these hazards and that these measures are reviewed as appropriate;
- provide evidence that all food handlers are supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters in order that they produce food that is safe to eat
The Food Standards Agency has produced systems to help create a documented food safety management system – Safer food better business / Safe Catering and these documents are available online. These are suitable for many types of food business, but not all. You are advised to discuss what is suitable for your business with one of our food safety officers [email@example.com].
How can a business improve its rating?
All businesses should be able to get the top rating. To help get this you should:
- look at your last food hygiene inspection report to check that you've taken all of the actions needed to meet legal requirements - if you can’t find your last report, contact us at [firstname.lastname@example.org] and we will be able to give you a copy;
- continue making regular routine checks to ensure hygiene standards are being maintained and staff understand and are following the rules, and promptly arrange for any repairs or maintenance of the premises or equipment;
- ensure your documented food safety management system is kept up to date and all necessary records and checks completed and recorded;
- at your next inspection, if you don’t get the top rating and you have queries about the improvements you need to make to get a better rating, then the food safety officer will be able to give you advice
The Food Standards Agency has a range of tools that can help you manage food hygiene. You can find out more about these on the hygiene resources page of the FSA’s website.
Re-rating a premises that attained a low food hygiene rating score?
The guidance surrounding the Food Hygiene Rating System (FHRS) requires a Local Authority to wait three months before the food business operator (FBO) can request another inspection, ahead of their next scheduled inspection. The LA may then inspect up to three months after that “stand still” period. Where a Local Authority introduces a charge for a subsequent inspection, the guidance allows a Local Authority to inspect earlier than the stand still period. The principle behind this is to prevent the tax payer from picking up the bill for a FBO who wants a re-rating ahead of the LA’s scheduled inspections.
The Council for the Isles of Scilly has adopted a charge of £175.00 (2017-18) which when paid by a FBO requiring an early inspection re-rating, will ensure that Environmental Health will make a timely (usually within 14 days) unannounced secondary inspection to reassess the FHRS score. It must be noted that a score may increase or decrease at this stage depending on the intervention and suitability of the works completed by the FBO. Environmental Health will work with local businesses to assist them in attaining good food hygiene standards and good FHRS outcomes.
Making sure the scheme is fair
To make sure the scheme is fair it includes a number of safeguards. You can appeal if you think your hygiene rating is wrong – in other words it does not reflect the hygiene standards found at the time of your inspection. You must lodge your appeal with your local authority within 14 days – including weekends and bank holiday - of being told what your hygiene rating is. You’ll need to make your appeal in writing. You can do this by sending us an email or a letter or you can download and complete this form (top right) and send that to us.
You can submit a ‘right to reply’ if you’ve improved hygiene standards since your inspection, or if there were unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection and you want to explain this to your customers. You can include your comments in an email or letter or you can download and complete this form [top right] and send that to us [email@example.com]. We will publish your comments alongside your rating at food.gov.uk/ratings
You can ask for re-inspection (after a set period of time) to get a new rating if you make the improvements to hygiene standards that the food safety officer told you about at your last inspection. You’ll need to do this in writing and supply evidence of the improvements made. You can make your request by email or letter you can download and complete this form [Top right].The food safety officer will re-assess hygiene standards and give you a new rating – this could go up but it could stay the same or it could go down.
Displaying your rating is good for business
To make your rating good for business make sure you display your rating sticker and put it in a place where your customers can easily see it, for example, in a window or on the door. This immediately reassures them that your business takes food hygiene seriously. If you’ve lost, damaged or misplaced your sticker, contact us and we can provide you with a new one.
It’s what customers look for - Food Standards Agency research has shown that people are becoming more aware of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and are actively looking for hygiene rating stickers when they are out and about.
There’s a profit to be made – an increasing number of food businesses are displaying their hygiene rating stickers and more than a third of them say that this is having a positive impact. This includes greater customer confidence, better reputation among customers and, most importantly, more customers.
There are some other straightforward, cost effective tips to help you get the most out of your hygiene rating in the ‘How to’ guide at food.gov.uk/business-toolkit-fhrs This includes downloadable images showing your rating that can be easily included in menus, promotional materials and on your website.