FSA News Item, 30 November 2010
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is today launching the roll-out of a national food hygiene rating scheme that will help people choose the safest places to eat out or do their food shopping.
The bright green and black food hygiene stickers showing a rating from zero to five will soon be a feature of shopping centres and high streets, as the FSA, in partnership with local authorities, rolls out its Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The aim is to reduce the one million cases of food poisoning suffered by people each year.
The stickers will show how good the hygiene standards are at places where people can eat or buy food, including restaurants, cafés, takeaways and supermarkets. Following inspections by local council food safety officers, the hygiene standards are rated on a scale ranging from zero at the bottom (which means ‘urgent improvement necessary’) to a top rating of five (‘very good’).
A snapshot survey, recently carried out for the FSA, indicated that more than eight in 10 members of the public (86%) consider hygiene standards to be extremely important when eating out, significantly outweighing other considerations such as price and location. At least a fifth of people questioned said that they had, when eating out, sent food back for hygiene-related reasons, such as undercooked poultry (23%) and dirty plates (22%), increasing to around one in three who reported sending back undercooked meat (29%).
People interviewed for the FSA research indicated that they primarily judge hygiene standards of places where they eat or buy food on the appearance of an establishment (68%), appearance of staff (44%), cleanliness of toilets (33%) and word of mouth/reputation (22%).
The hygiene rating given to a food business will give customers a glimpse into the areas that they don’t normally see to get an idea of what’s going on in the kitchen, or behind the scenes. Ratings are available for anyone to view at food.gov.uk/ratings.
Jeff Rooker, Chair of the FSA, said: ‘Many people suffer from food poisoning every year, but we shouldn’t feel we are gambling with our health when we eat out. In developing this scheme, we wanted to give people the ability to judge for themselves whether they considered the hygiene standards of a food outlet to be good enough. If customers are looking for a hygiene rating, this will drive businesses to improve their standards.’
Notes to editors:The FHRS is run by local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in partnership with the Food Standards Agency. A different scheme, with similar aims, is being rolled out by local authorities in Scotland.
The FHRS has started to roll-out across local authorities. The first to come on board have begun to publish their ratings on food.gov.uk/ratings, and others will follow over the coming months.
The snapshot survey for the FSA was conducted between 12-14 November 2010 via GFK’s telephone omnibus survey, ‘Telebus’. This interviews 1,000 adults aged 16+ UK wide each week. The sampling frame is all telephone directories in the UK. The sample is obtained by using ‘Random Digit Dialling’. Quota controls are set by sex, age, social class and region to ensure the sample is nationally representative of adults in telephone-owning households in the UK.
Many UK local authorities operate ‘local’ food hygiene rating schemes of different types and with inherent inconsistencies (e.g. different methods for deriving the rating, different numbers of tiers, a variety of symbols to represent the tiers such as stars, letters and smiley faces). The FSA is introducing a national scheme to avoid further proliferation of these ‘local’ schemes and to ensure consistency for businesses and clarity for consumers.
A food safety officer from the local authority inspects a business to check that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law. The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are then rated on a scale. At the inspection, the officer will check:
The green and black stickers which show the hygiene rating of a food outlet are designed to be displayed somewhere prominent, such as the window. See an example of a sticker for a business with a hygiene rating of ‘5’ and ‘very good’ hygiene standards: