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Food hygiene rating scheme for businesses

Good food hygiene is getting easier to spot - a good food hygiene rating can help you keep your customers.

What does a business need to do to get the top food hygiene rating?

All business should be able to get the top rating.

Food hygiene rating 5

To get this, you must be able to demonstrate very good compliance with legal requirements for food hygiene.

The level of compliance will be assessed by the food safety officer when your business is inspected.

How is this assessed?

Your food hygiene rating is based on the level of compliance in three areas:

  • how hygienically the food is handled - safe food preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage

  • the condition of the structure of the premises - cleanliness, repair, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities

  • how you manage what you do to make sure food is safe and so that the officer can be confident standards will be maintained in the future.

How can a business demonstrate that food is handled hygienically?

You can do this by showing, for example, that:

  • there are high standards of personal hygiene of staff - for example, clean over-clothing (such as aprons), appropriate headwear, minimal jewellery and regular and appropriate hand-washing

  • control measures are in place to prevent cross contamination - for example, use of separate areas and equipment for handling and preparing raw and cooked foods, and correct use of appropriate cleaning chemicals

  • foods are stored at the correct temperature - for example, food stored in fridges is maintained at less than 8°C and that the chill chain is protected

  • foods are properly cooked, re-heated and cooled - for example, foods are cooked to 75°C or hotter and are checked visually for signs of thorough cooking, and foods are cooled quickly to 8°C or below and kept at a safe temperature until used.

What about the condition and structure of the premises?

There should be, for example:

  • a suitable structure which is clean and in good repair throughout the premises

  • adequate natural/artificial lighting and ventilation

  • adequate proofing against pest entry

  • adequate facilities including: wash basins, toilet(s) and, where necessary, sink(s).

What about how the business manages and documents what it does to make sure food is safe?

It is a legal requirement for most food businesses to provide documentary evidence that the food they produce is safe.  This should:

  • identify and show an understanding of the food safety hazards (microbiological, physical and chemical) within the business

  • provide evidence that measures have been taken to effectively control these hazards and that these measures are reviewed as appropriate

  • provide evidence that all food handlers are supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters in order that they produce food that is safe to eat.

The Food Standards Agency has produced systems to help create a documented food safety management system:

These are suitable for many types of food business, but not all.

You are advised to discuss what is suitable for your business with one of our food safety officers.

How can a business improve its rating?

All businesses should be able to get the top rating.

To help get this you should:

  • look at your last food hygiene inspection report to check that you've taken all of the actions needed to meet legal requirements

  • at your next inspection, if you don't get the top rating and you have queries about the improvements you need to make to get a better rating, then the food safety officer will be able to give you advice.

The Food Standards Agency has a range of tools that can help you manage food hygiene. You can find out more about these on the hygiene resources page of the Food Standards Agency's website.

Making sure the scheme is fair

To make sure the scheme is fair it includes s number of safeguards.

You can appeal if you think your hygiene rating is wrong - in other words it does not reflect the hygiene standards found at the time of your inspection. You must lodge your appeal with your local authority within 14 days - including weekends and bank holiday - of being told what your hygiene rating is. You'll need to make your appeal in writing.  You can do this by sending us an email or a letter or you can download and complete this  icon Appeal form [125.5KB] and send that to us.

You can submit a 'right to reply' if you've improved hygiene standards since your inspection, or if there were unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection and you want to explain this to your customers. You can include your comments in an email or letter or you can download and complete this  icon Right to reply form [79.6KB] and send that to us.  We will publish your comments alongside your rating at food.gov.uk/ratings.

You can ask for re-inspection to get a new rating if you make the improvements to hygiene standards that the food safety officer told you about at your last inspection. You'll need to do this in writing and supply evidence of the improvements made. You can make your request by email or letter you can download and complete this form icon Request a re-visit form [79.65KB] . The food safety officer will re-assess hygiene standards and give you a new rating - this could go up but it could stay the same or it could go down.

Do I have to display my rating?

Not at present, however the scheme is promoted both locally and nationally to consumers so that they can understand and use the ratings in making their choices about where to eat out or shop. As a business if you display your rating sticker and put it in a place where your customers can easily see it, for example, in a window this immediately reassures them that your business takes food hygiene seriously.

There are some other straightforward, cost effective tips to help you get the most out of your hygiene rating in the 'How to' guide. This includes downloadable images showing your rating that can be easily included in menus, promotional materials and on your website.