The Benefits of the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
Have you checked the hygiene rating of your favourite restaurant or food outlet lately? You may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you do!
Most consumers will judge the hygiene standards of a restaurant merely based on appearances; if the premises and staff appear to be clean they will assume the food is safe to eat. However, the National Food Hygiene Rating gives the consumer a much more accurate picture of how well the business meets the required standards by checking-out those areas of the business that the customer can’t see. By knowing the rating of a restaurant in advance of reserving a table you may decide to switch to one that has higher standards.
By maintaining good food hygiene standards, and consequently achieving a high rating, businesses are able to offer the best to their consumers and also remain competitive. The rating scheme is run by local authorities who conduct inspections to ensure that the businesses operating in the food industry have met all the requirements. The information they obtain is then published on the Food Standards Agency website.
The rating is normally applicable to those places where people eat out, e.g. restaurants, cafes, hotels, pubs, as well as institutions like hospitals and schools. You may also find some shops and supermarkets that sell certain types of foodstuffs included within the food hygiene rating scheme.
Before a rating is given, a food safety officer visits the businesses premises to conduct an inspection. The officer will check not just how the food is served to customers, but the entire process from delivery of the food from the wholesaler right through storage, preparation, cooking and disposal of waste. An inspection will also be done to assess the structure and suitability of the building in which food is stored, prepared, and cooked. The officer will pay particular attention to provision of hand washing facilities for staff, fridges and freezers for storing food, as well as lighting and ventilation in food preparation areas. The officer will also want to see evidence of a well-documented food safety management system specific to that particular business.
When the food safety officer’s visit is completed, and they are satisfied the business is in compliance with the law, and standards are being maintained to protect the consumer from deadly foodborne illnesses, they will be given an appropriate rating. The business will then be subject to further regular inspections to ensure standards are not only being maintained, but improved upon.
The food hygiene rating scheme not only allows consumers to keep track of their local food businesses, but is a motivating factor for proprietors and managers to maintain high standards of hygiene. The introduction of this scheme has really helped to enhance the provision of safer food for the nation.