National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme - FAQ's
What is the food hygiene rating scheme for?
Whether you are eating out, or ordering in, you can check the hygiene rating of a premises by
- Looking for the green and black sticker in the window
- Checking online at the Food Standards Agency website
The scheme encourages businesses to improve hygiene standards.
Who runs the scheme?
The scheme is run by local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Brentwood Borough Council are responsible for carrying out inspections of food businesses to check that they meet the requirements of food hygiene law.
What types of food business are given a rating?
Ratings are given to places where you can eat out such as restaurants, takeaways, cafĂ©s, sandwich shops, pubs and hotels. Ratings are also given to schools, hospitals and residential care homes.
Places where you shop for food, such as supermarkets, bakeries, and delicatessens, are also given a rating.
Not all businesses in these groups are given a rating. This is because some businesses, for example a newsagent selling sweets, are a low risk to people’s health so are not included in the scheme. These businesses are said to be ‘exempt’ from the scheme.
What does ‘exempt’ mean?
The two groups of exempt businesses are:
- businesses that are a low-risk to people’s health in terms of food safety and that you perhaps wouldn’t normally think of as a food business – for example, newsagents, chemist shops or visitor centres selling tins of biscuits
- childminders and businesses that offer caring services at home
These types of business can ask to receive a food hygiene rating if they wish. Only details of those in the first group will be published on the FSA website but those in the second group can share their rating with parents and others using their services.
How is a hygiene rating worked out?
A food safety officer from Brentwood Borough Council inspects a business to check that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law.
At the inspection, the officer will check:
- how hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
- the condition of the structure of the buildings – the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
- how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe
The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are then rated on a scale. A rating of between '5' meaning very good and '0' meaning urgent improvement is required.
The rating given shows how well the business does overall. The business may do better in some areas and less well in others and the rating considers this. This includes those areas that need improving the most.
The officer will explain to the food business operator what improvements need to be made and what action they can take to improve their hygiene rating.
What do the different ratings mean?
The food hygiene rating reflects the hygiene standards found at the time of inspection by a food safety officer from the business’s local authority.
A business can be given one of these ratings:
- Food hygiene rating is '5': Very good
- Food hygiene rating is '4': Good
- Food hygiene rating is '3': Generally satisfactory
- Food hygiene rating is '2': Improvement necessary
- Food hygiene rating is '1': Major improvement necessary
- Food hygiene rating is '0': Urgent improvement necessary
A rating shows you how well the business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene law. It gives you an idea of what’s going on in the kitchen, or behind closed doors, so you can choose where you eat or buy food.
New premises that have registered but not yet been inspected are given an 'Awaiting Inspection' window sticker to display.
How often will a restaurant or other food business be given a new rating?
A new rating is given each time the business is inspected by a food safety officer from Brentwood Borough Council.
How often inspections take place depends on the risk to people’s health. The greater the risk, the lower the rating and the more often the business is inspected.
If the food business operator makes improvements to hygiene standards, they can ask Brentwood Borough Council for a visit to be carried out before the date of the next planned inspection. This means these improvements can be checked and a new rating could be given.
Why are businesses with poor ratings not closed?
Businesses given ratings of ‘0’ or ‘1’ must make urgent or major improvements to hygiene standards. Brentwood Borough Council's food safety officer will use a number of enforcement tools as well as giving advice and guidance to make sure these improvements are made.
If the officer finds that a business’s hygiene standards are very poor and there is an imminent risk to health (health risk condition) – this means food is not safe to eat – the officer must take action to ensure that consumers are protected. This could mean prohibiting part of an operation or closing the business down.
How can I find out what the rating is for a takeaway or other food business?
If a takeaway or other food business has been given a rating, you can search for it on the FSA website
When you eat out or shop for food, you might see a sticker in the window or on the door showing you the hygiene rating for that business. Businesses are encouraged to display these stickers in a place where you can easily see them when you visit.
These stickers also show the date the hygiene standards were inspected by the Brentwood Borough Council's food safety officer.
If you don’t see the rating at a takeaway or other food business, you can ask a member of staff what rating was given at the last inspection.
Does a food business have to show its rating?
No, so if you see a business without a hygiene rating sticker, you’ll have to decide if you want to eat or buy food from there without knowing the hygiene standards.
Putting a hygiene rating on show is a good advertisement for businesses that meet the requirements of food hygiene law.
A good food hygiene rating is good for business.
What does ‘awaiting inspection’ mean?
If a new business has been set up, or there is a new owner, it will not have a food hygiene rating to begin with but it may display a sticker that says ‘awaiting inspection’. A rating will be given after a local authority food safety officer has inspected the business to check the hygiene standards.
What can the owner of a business do if they think the rating given is unfair or wrong?
The food business operator should talk to the Brentwood Borough Council's food safety officer that inspected the business about why the rating was given.
If you think your rating is unfair or wrong, you have the Right to Reply, can make and Appeal or request a Re-Rating by completing our Food Hygiene Rating Scheme - Business Rights Application Form
Can the owner of a business ask the local authority to inspect hygiene standards again to get a new rating?
Yes, but only if the improvements to hygiene that the Brentwood Borough Council's food safety officer told the business about at the last inspection have been made.
The food business operator can only ask the local authority once for another inspection to be carried out before the date of the next planned inspection.
I’m worried about the rating given to a shop where I’ve eaten and bought food. What should I do?
You should contact the local authority that gave the rating. The local authority details are also on the back of any sticker on show at the shop.
Why six tiers?
The decision about the best scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland was considered very carefully by the FSA Board in December 2008, following a major public consultation. In opting for six tiers, the Board took account of all views, and also the aim to enable consumers to differentiate between the food hygiene standards at premises where they eat or buy food, and the aim to provide an incentive to businesses for continuous improvement.
Why isn’t it mandatory for businesses to display the score?
Mandatory Display has been introduced in Wales. Mandatory display in England would require new legislation and the Food Standards Agency is taking a voluntary approach at this stage, though this is under review.
Why doesn’t the scheme apply to businesses that process and supply food?
Principally it is a consumer information tool, so ratings will be given to food outlets where customers can make a decision there and then about where to go and eat or to do their food shopping.