What Are The Food Hygiene Ratings & What Do They Mean?
What Are The Food Hygiene Ratings & What Do They Mean?
If you’ve ever worked in an establishment that serves food or you eat out often, you’ll have noticed the colourful sticker displayed in the front window that has been issued by the Food Standard Agency. This sticker says ‘Food Hygiene Rating’ and has a circled number ranging from 0 - 5. You might be wondering what these stickers indicate, who they are issued by, and what can be done to improve these ratings. Find out more with HSEDocs.
What are the food hygiene ratings? These ratings are issued in cooperation between The Food Standards Agency and your local authority to indicate the business’s hygiene based on an inspection of certain principles in their approach to serving food. A rating of ‘5’ is the highest rating and warrants a green sticker. A rating of ‘0’ is the lowest rating given to an establishment and would result in closure unless immediate action is taken.
Continue reading to find out everything there is to know about this rating system and what food vendors can do to improve their ratings based on the established principles.
The rating system is issued by The Food Standard Agency and enforced by your local council. It intends to indicate to customers the hygiene standards currently being implemented by the food preparation and storage areas of the business under which the rating is issued. This means that, in simple terms, the rating system displayed on the front of the building is indicative of the hygiene standards in the kitchen and food storage areas.
You might be wondering what a particular number indicates, and its relation to your safety as a consumer when ordering food from that kitchen.
A Food Hygiene Rating of 0 means that you have failed to meet the standards set by the FSA. This will be seen as a gross misunderstanding or deliberate contravention of safety protocols. The business will likely be closed by the authorities if improvements are not immediate. A rating of 0 is considered to have failed the inspection.
A Food Hygiene Rating of 1 means that you have barely met the standards set by the FSA. Major improvements are expected by the next inspection. This is nevertheless a pass.
Level 2 ratings are to indicate that some improvements are necessary. ‘Some’, used by the FSA, is vague here, so you can make a freedom of information request to see how a restaurant has performed poorly. This will be provided to the business in a detailed report.
A rating of 3 indicates that a kitchen isn’t posing any risks that are immediate to customers at present. Improvements can be made to measures in place to improve safety going forward, where Critical Control Points aren’t always recognised.
A level 4 food hygiene rating is to outline that a business has general good practices and approach to food safety. Usually, only minor improvements are needed to meet a level 5, such as stricter reporting on daily temperatures or small storage concerns.
A food hygiene rating of 5 indicates that there are no immediate improvements that the business needs to make at this time.
The Food Standards Agency does not demand that every aspect is perfect or that every small detail has been meticulously considered. A rating of 5 indicates that the business is performing safely, and is considerate of what is reasonably practicable.
A Food Rating Does Indicate
- The correct storage of food.
- The correct handling of food.
- Cleanliness of the kitchen.
- The kitchen's approach to safety.
A Food Rating Doesn’t Indicate
- The perceived quality of food being served.
- The attentiveness of the wait staff.
- The use of local ingredients.
- The presentation of the food being served.
Once a business gets registered, it will apply for a Safer food, better business (SFBB) pack provided by the FSA which will outline information intended to help a business meet its required safety goals before opening. This guide will be key going forward in attaining the higher scoring safety ratings.
The SFBB follows the principle of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). Follow the link for a detailed analysis of HACCP as it is key to a full understanding of a business's hygiene standards and approaches that the business can make to ensure better practices if standards fall short. This will be assessed during the business’s inspection.
During the first 6 months of trading and at regular intervals, the business will receive one of the above ratings from your local food inspector. They will assess everywhere food is stored and prepared for safety standards and issue a rating. The business has a short period of time to repeal this rating if the inspector sees that the low standards are due to a momentary lapse in judgement as opposed to a systematic and ongoing lack of care or incompetence.
The ratings are intended for any establishment that serves food meant for the general public, if you;
- Sell food.
- Cook food.
- Store or handle food.
- Prepare food.
- Distribute food.
The sticker is displayed at the discretion of the business, but it is also available online. You can find a business by using an online tool provided by the Food Standards Agency. Of course, a business that practises good food hygiene practices would want to display this badge with pride, others, with lower ratings perhaps, might want to hide it.
If you are a restaurant owner or work in a kitchen that is concerned about its health and safety rating, you might want to improve your team’s overall understanding of food safety in the workplace. This can be obtained in the form of an internationally recognised certificate called a Level 2 Hygiene Certificate.
You should complete a Level 2 Certificate to be able to run an industrial kitchen, of any size, as a minimum, and it should also be expected of any staff who work there too. HSEDocs has a completely free online course available for just £4.99.