Should Food Hygiene Ratings be Mandatory?

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health recently made a call for the mandatory display of food hygiene ratings on outlet doors. Yesterday, the BBC’s Inside Out programme also aired an investigation of its own. So, should it be mandatory for food hygiene ratings to be displayed?

The food hygiene rating is simple enough: a score between zero and five is awarded to outlets for their food preparation and hygiene standards, but current legislation means that businesses are not obliged to display their ratings.

It is now mandatory to display them in Wales and some believe that mandatory display will help drive up food hygiene standards.

Opposition

Inconsistencies in the system and low-consumer awareness are some of the reasons for not making it mandatory.

The British Hospitality Association (BHA) oppose a mandatory scheme stating various inconsistencies in the way in which it is applied. For example, only 4% of hospitality and retail food businesses in Belfast are rated as ‘requiring improvement’ but 17% of those in Cardiff, yet it is the same scheme.

“There are still problems with consistency under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme,” explained BHA deputy chief executive, Martin Couchman. “If the flaws haven’t been ironed out, then it is wrong to make any display compulsory.”

“The other concern is that customers don’t yet understand the system and without proper understanding, mistakes and misconception can take hold. For example a hospitality business with low initial scores could find it difficult to win back customers even once it had made significant improvements in its scores.”

the BHA would prefer the FSA in Wales, Northern Ireland and England to operate the Scottish scheme which requires businesses to be simply given a ‘pass’ or ‘improvement required’. According to the BHA, this system is more straightforward and easier to understand.

DISCUSS
  • One Comment
  • Matthew Parish

    In reality there is little justification for not making the scheme mandatory, the whole purpose of the scheme is to improve hygiene and food safety standards and by not making caterers and retailers display their result there is little benefit to having the scheme in the first place. Those premises rated with a score of below 3 currently have no incentive to improve standards as their is little impact to their business. With a poor score on the door, they will have no choice but to up their game.

    Lets not forget that the EHO’s responsible for calculating the rating for a premises are professionally qualified and they all work to the same FSA standard therefore any inconsistencies (and there are bound to be a few) will be few in number. To suggest the system doesn’t work because one region has more premises with a low rating than another is a bit naive. What it simply means is one region has more sites with poor standards than another – which is perfectly feasible.
    There are over 300,000 food establishments on the scheme and of the 80,000 that have a lower than 3 score and very small proportion of those have a justified reason to question the result.

    In terms of the awareness of the public – you only have to read the local news publications on line and in print to see that on a daily basis the scheme is being referred to and more and more of the public are becoming aware of its existence. Further more with national news and current affairs programs focusing on safety and hygiene in food premises, the public will soon latch on and of course if every food establishment had the green and black sign on view the public would very grow to understand it.

    A change in standards requires and change in attitude of those responsible and it is clear that there are many food businesses out there who still pay little regard to the safety of their customers. If they don’t want to voluntarily improve standards to an acceptable level they will inevitably be forced to do so which is no bad thing in the long run.

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