Does the Food Hygiene Rating of an establishment really matter? Indeed it does, because if you own, manage or work in a place where food is supplied, sold or consumed and it has a dismally low rating it follows that you won’t draw many customers. In addition, you may well make the customers you do have ill!
For a healthy catering or food manufacturing business you need a high-scoring Food Hygiene Rating (FHR), which is what AMCAS Training is here to help with.
How the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme works:
The FHR scheme is run by The Food Standards Agency, the Government organisation that is responsible for food safety and food hygiene in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Under the rules of the scheme inspectors from local authorities regularly visit premises where food is prepared, stored and served to the public using various criteria to award a Food Hygiene Rating star rating between 0 (urgent improvement required) and 5 (very good).
This rating can be displayed prominently on the premises in the form of an official sticker for the edification of customers, so everyone is aware what the particular concern’s current rating is.
In England it is not mandatory to display a sticker – food outlets in Wales and Northern Ireland have to, however. Even without a sticker, members of the public can find out the FHR of a business simply by searching for it on the Food Standards Agency website, so there’s nowhere to hide if you’re not up to scratch!
What Food Safety Inspectors check:
On its website the Food Standards Agency describes a food hygiene safety check as a “snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection”.
Food safety officers from local authorities visit all sorts of places where food is served – restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, food vans, canteens, hotels, schools, hospitals and care homes to name just a few. These officers are schooled in food hygiene law, and have benchmarks for the many checks they make.
What they look at encompasses not only the obvious, which would be the way food is handled, prepared, cooked, reheated, cooled and stored, but also other elements.
The physical condition of the business is assessed – it’s cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control measures and so on. The personal hygiene of the staff is also important. The officers also look at what processes and systems are in place to ensure good hygiene is maintained, and what food safety training is given to the staff.
What Food Hygiene Ratings tell you:
What a FHR does NOT tell you about a food business is what the quality of the food is like, whether the customer service is good or bad, how the food is presented, whether the seating is comfortable or even if the kitchen is run by a brilliant cordon bleu chef.
The FHR purely and simply is devoted to hygiene standards, but most of us infer that a 5 star for food hygiene is an indicator of high standards all round, so achieving a top rating is certainly important for the overall reputation of a business involved with food or catering.
If a business falls short with its FHR the food safety officer will suggest what can be done to improve the situation, but even the business owner won’t see the detailed report unless he or she makes a Freedom of Information request to the local authority.
If hygiene standards are deemed very poor, with a risk to public health, the inspector could temporarily close down a business entirely until things improve. The officer also has enforcement powers to impose a time-scale for improvements to be made.
Prevention is better than Cure
A low FHR has disastrous consequences and once you hit rock bottom it’s hard to recover your reputation even if you make things pristine going forward.
To ensure you keep your stars shining brightly keep everyone involved with food in your business trained and practiced in food hygiene compliance. AMCAS is in the business of doing exactly that with a series of bespoke courses and Highfield Qualifications on offer, we can also conduct audits, inspections and create a report or plan for your business to enable you to achieve the maximum score rating from your local authority.
We’re happy to help.