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Scores on the Doors – What do Food Hygiene Ratings mean?

Posted by Wendy Downie – Key Account Manager at Praxis42

I have previously worked for many years as both an Environmental Health Officer and Consultant and have extensive experience both in an enforcement capacity and more recently by providing advice and assistance to a wide range of food businesses on food hygiene standards.

In previous years, when I began working as EHO consumers did not have visibility of the outcome of food hygiene inspections. Local authorities began operating various rating schemes, however, making comparisons from one Local Authority area to another was difficult.  This led to the launch of the food hygiene rating scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in November 2010.

Since the introduction of the scheme, I have clearly seen in the many food businesses I have visited, an eagerness to achieve a high score and many consider this of vital importance to their business and its reputation.  I have assisted food businesses in helping them to score a high rating under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, through the provision of advice and the development of food safety management systems, tools and training.


Food hygiene rating stickers are now a familiar sight, displayed on many windows and doors of food businesses.  The rating provides clear information to customers about businesses hygiene standards, allowing them to make informed decisions about the places where they eat out or shop for food. But what are food hygiene ratings all about and how do you achieve a top score?

The Scheme

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run in partnership between the Food Standards Agency and Local Authorities throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  A similar scheme, the Food Hygiene Information Scheme is operated in Scotland.

A Food Hygiene Rating can only be given by a Food Safety Officer from the Local Authority during an inspection or a revisit following a request for a re-rating.  A new rating is given each time a business is inspected.  There are six different food hygiene ratings (‘0’ up to ‘5’) – the top rating means the hygiene standards are very good and fully comply with the law, whilst 0 is at the bottom of the scale and means urgent improvement is necessary.

How is the Food Hygiene Rating calculated?

There are 3 different areas that the Food Safety Officer will check when calculating the rating:

  • How hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, stored and cooled.
  • The physical condition of the business – including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and pest control
  • How the business manages ways of keeping food safe, such as having systems and training in place.

Businesses must do well in all three areas in order to achieve a top rating.  If this is not achieved, the Food Safety Officer will explain to the business the necessary actions they can take to improve their hygiene rating. Businesses which are given low ratings must make urgent or major improvements to hygiene standards. The Food Safety Officer has a range of enforcement options available as well as giving advice and guidance to make sure these improvements are made.

Publication and Display of Rating

Food hygiene ratings are published online at food.gov.uk/ratings and businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their rating.  Whilst display of ratings are voluntary in England, businesses are encouraged to display their stickers showing their food hygiene rating in a prominent position where consumers can easily see them.   The Local Government Association is calling for a display to be mandatory in England and for this to include online and app takeaway services.

Food hygiene ratings for food businesses can also be found on the website www.omgomg.co.uk  This website uses data from the Food Standards Agency and allows customers to see not only the current ratings of their local food businesses but also previous ratings.  The reports featured on the website highlight the best and worst of recent reports, as well as listing the most recent ‘failures’ for those who have been given a rating or 1 or 2, (for Scotland – Improvement Required) including recent ‘failures’ for familiar high street chains.

How to achieve a Top Score!

  • Ensure a suitable and current Food Safety Management System is in place and implemented.
  • Ensure catering employees fully understand and implement the control measures identified in the Food Safety Management System.
  • Undertake regular monitoring of all food hygiene control measures to ensure they remain in place.
  • Keep clear records of all monitoring checks.
  • Discuss practices with employees and regularly observe the tasks they undertake to ensure that the correct hygiene practices are followed.
  • Instruct and train employees in food hygiene matters. Those who are involved in food preparation should be trained to at least level 2 in food hygiene.
  • Seek professional advice from a pest control company for advice on proactive measures and any pest problems.

Praxis42 can assist in providing advice and guidance in the undertaking of a food hygiene audit, as well as through our eLearning food hygiene training modules.


Wendy Downie – Key Account Manager at Praxis42


Wendy Downie – Key Account Manager at Praxis42

Wendy has a background in environmental health, specialising in Health and Safety and Food Hygiene support. Wendy works with one of our bigger clients in the entertainments industry helping them to develop and implement an effective Health and Safety Management System.

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