The Forest of Dean District Council has changed the way it displays the hygiene standard of food businesses to consumers. The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) will be run across the district from 1st April 2011. The national scheme developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, provides information on food hygiene standards to help people to choose where to eat out or shop for food.
Officers from the Council's Food Team inspect food outlets such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs regularly. This is to check that
their hygiene standards meet legal requirements. The hygiene standards at these inspections are rated on a scale ranging from zero at the bottom (which means 'urgent improvement needed') to a top rating of five ('very good').
These ratings will be available for anyone to view on the Food Hygiene Ratings website and the food business will be given a sticker and a certificate and encouraged to display these at the entrance to their premises.
In order to ensure that the scheme is fair to businesses a number of safeguards are available including a right to reply, a request for a re-visit and an appeals procedure.
When our food safety officers inspect premises they score food hygiene standards against 3 criteria:
- standard of the structure, equipment and cleaning
- food handling practices
- confidence in food safety management
The rating is as follows:
- 5 Star – Very Good
- 4 Star – Good
- 3 Star – Generally Satisfactory
- 2 Star – Improvement Necessary
- 1 Star – Major Improvement Necessary
- 0 Star – Urgent Improvement Needed
It is hoped that this information will:
- allow you to make an informed choice about where you eat
- encourage food businesses which have high standards to continue to maintain them
- encourage those food businesses that have poor standards to improve
Caterers have also been given window stickers and certificates showing their individual star rating but they are not obliged to display them.
What do the scores mean?
It is important to remember that premises with 4 stars are good and 3 star premises will generally comply with the law (but there will be some minor contraventions that require attention). Premises with 1 star or no stars will have been required to carry out significant work to ensure food safety. Businesses are not re-scored after completing the work; they must maintain the standards until the next inspection.
To get 5 stars, everything needs to be very good when the inspector calls unannounced. This is hard to achieve in a busy kitchen. Some premises may not be able to achieve 5 stars without substantial investment (for example, if the kitchen is small or the layout is poor. These problems can usually be managed but it is not ideal so they won’t get 5 stars).
Why don’t you close down the premises with low scores?
Officers can only close a business if it represents an imminent risk to health. Some zero star premises may have fallen into this category, but local authorities will usually give the owner a chance to put things right. Sometimes caterers will close voluntarily for a short period of time whilst any remedial work is going ahead, but consumers would not necessarily be aware of the local authority’s intervention. If businesses don’t respond immediately closure is always an option.
What is Safer Food Better Business?
Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) is a food safety management tool designed by the Food Standards Agency to help small catering and retail businesses comply with regulations introduced in 2006. All businesses must be able to show what they do to make sure their food is safe and SFBB is a simple, jargon-free way of doing that. Caterers in Gloucestershire have been offered free help to introduce SFBB. All businesses must have a good food safety management system in place to get a good star rating.
Top Tips When Eating Out
Sadly some businesses invest heavily in the front-of-house but neglect the areas customers cannot see. Unfortunately, the problems that are most likely to give rise to food poisoning, such as poor temperature control and cross contamination, are difficult for customers to see. That is why we think the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is so important.
Here are a few things to look out for when visiting the premises:
- Are the customer areas and toilets clean and well maintained? If not, then the kitchen is unlikely to be any better.
- When served, is the hot food, hot? Is the cold food, cold? If not, then it may have been standing around too long.
- Do the staff who handle food appear to have good standards of personal hygiene and is their clothing clean?
- A good caterer will always be happy to let you look around their kitchen, but it isn't necessarily the best way to spend an evening out!
So check out the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme before you go and eat with confidence.