The scheme helps you choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving you clear information about the businesses’ hygiene standards. Food standards agency run the scheme in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The scheme gives businesses a rating from 5 to 0 which is displayed at their premises and online so you can make more informed choices about where to buy and eat food.
5 – hygiene standards are very good
4 – hygiene standards are good
3 – hygiene standards are generally satisfactory
2 – some improvement is necessary
1 – major improvement is necessary
0 – urgent improvement is required
The scheme is set out in law in Wales and Northern Ireland but display of the rating sticker is voluntary in England.
What the rating covers
Ratings are a snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection. It is always the responsibility of the business to comply with food hygiene law.
The food hygiene rating scheme does not provide information on the following factors:
The rating shows how well the business is doing overall, based on standards found at the time of inspection. The ratings can be found online and on stickers which are displayed at business premises. The back of the sticker and the online rating will also show the date of the inspection by the local authority’s food safety officer.
A food safety officer from the local authority inspects a business to check that it follows food hygiene law so that the food is safe to eat.
At the inspection, the officer will check the following three elements:
Businesses with poor ratings
Businesses which are given low ratings must make urgent or major improvements to hygiene standards. The local authority food safety officer has several enforcement options available as well as giving advice and guidance to make sure these improvements are made.
The food safety officer will also tell the business how quickly these improvements must be made, and this will depend on the type of issue that needs to be addressed.
If the officer finds that a business’s hygiene standards are very poor and there is an imminent risk to public health, when food may be unsafe to eat, the officer must act to ensure consumers are protected. This could result in stopping part of the business or closing it down completely until it is safe to recommence.
Frequency of inspections
A new rating is given each time a business is inspected by a food safety officer from the business’s local authority.
Each local authority plans a programme of inspections every year. The frequency of inspections depends on the potential risk to public health.
Businesses that pose a higher risk are inspected more often than businesses that pose a lower risk, for example a small retailer selling a range of prepacked foods that only need to be refrigerated. The time between inspections varies from six months for the highest risk businesses to two years for lower risk businesses. For some very low risk businesses, the interval between inspections may be longer than two years, however there may be some exceptions to this.
In between inspections, local authorities may also monitor businesses in other ways to ensure they are maintaining hygiene standards. If these checks reveal anything that might indicate that hygiene standards have deteriorated, the officer will carry out an inspection and the business will get a new rating.
If the local authority receives a complaint or new information about a business that they are not due to inspect, and this suggests hygiene standards are not being maintained, the local authority will investigate and may inspect the business and give it a new hygiene rating.