What does a zero rating for food hygiene actually mean?

We may be aware of the green and black food hygiene rating sticker but do we look for it when we eat out or buy produce? Do we really know what it means?

The food hygiene ratings scheme is operated by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It provides consumers with information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, pubs, cafes and premises that sell or manufacture food.

Each local authority organises and carries out the inspections, using a team of Food Safety Officers. The Food Safety Officer will examine each business to ensure it meets the standards set out by law.   Factors that are assessed are:

  • Methods of food handling
  • Food hygiene and safety procedures
  • Cleanliness of the premises
  • Level of compliance in the business, particularly with reference to the level of training food handlers are given
  • The presence of a food safety management system such as HACCP
  • The conditions of the buildings, internal and external, cleanliness, lighting, ventilation etc.

Following the inspection, each establishment is given a rating – from 0 to 5, 5 meaning very good, i.e. meeting or exceeding legal requirements. The Food Safety Officer will also suggest actions to be carried out to improve the score where it is not perfect and improvement is required.

A zero rating indicates that urgent improvement is necessary and the establishment is almost totally non-compliant. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a guarantee that you won’t get food poisoning or a food borne illness from an establishment whatever the score, but a low score obviously indicates an increased risk.

Currently businesses in England do not have to display their rating but as of 2019 it will become mandatory for all businesses selling or serving food for public consumption to display their hygiene rating sticker somewhere clearly visible on their premises.

You can also check online on https://ratings.food.gov.uk or https://www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk to see a food hygiene rating for a specific establishment before you decide to visit.

Source: Food Standards Agency