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Last updated: 16.06.17

Why mandatory displays of food hygiene are a good idea

Customers and consumers rely heavily on the Food Standards Agency’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS), but does this mean displays of ratings should become mandatory?

Whether it’s deciding where to grab a quick bite for breakfast on a Sunday morning, or choosing where to dine for a special occasion, food hygiene matters. Any sign of poor hygiene or unclean conditions will immediately cause customers to turn away and go elsewhere to dine.

According to Checkit, a huge 61 per cent of consumers said that they would not eat at an establishment with a food hygiene rating of two or below - meaning that it is classed as ‘Improvement Necessary’, ‘Major Improvement Necessary’ or ‘Urgent Improvement Necessary’. In addition to this, only a mere nine per cent of those surveyed said they’d ignore the rating, but admitted they would be extra cautious and suspicious with what they ordered.

As the ‘foodie’ trend continues to grow, food enthusiasts are increasingly looking for new and exciting places to dine. Contrary to popular belief, first impressions count and poor hygiene could be problematic for eateries, restaurants, cafes and various places that sell food. Food ratings are also something that consumers are looking out for when eating out, as they are increasingly concerned about the safety of their food.

Why are food hygiene ratings important?

The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is becoming more and more relied upon among customers and is a crucial factor when it comes to deciding where to eat. The research from Checkit also found that consumers had the highest expectations of fine dining restaurants, with a staggering 69 per cent saying that they wouldn’t visit a restaurant that had a low food hygiene rating.

Customers will often seek reviews and ratings of a food establishment before dining, so even if an eatery doesn’t declare their rating, it won’t take them long to find out by searching online. Under current legislation, it is not compulsory for food establishments to display their FSA rating, which makes it easier for them to hide poor ratings, and not improve hygiene.

Why displaying ratings is a good idea

However, by making the display of food hygiene ratings mandatory, eateries with poor hygiene have nowhere to hide, with no other option other than improving their food safety. By clearly displaying ratings outside premises, consumers will be able to see at a glance the score, and then decide whether they want to dine there.

In Wales, the display of food hygiene ratings has been mandatory since 2013. As of 2016, this also became mandatory in Northern Ireland. Following this, a number of groups (Which?, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Local Government Association) are agreeing with the FSA in calling for mandatory visibility of ratings for food-serving premises in England.

How will this change things?

There is evidence that proves this will cause positive change. According to FSA data, since display was made mandatory in Wales, the number of businesses in the country with the highest rating of five increased quicker than in similar local authorities in England.

In addition to this, the number of food-serving businesses that scored zero to one fell faster in Wales than here in England.

When it comes to the economy, the FSA have also claimed that each year, food poisoning cost the English and Welsh economies £1.6 billion. This takes into account time taken off work, medical costs, and long-term sickness triggered by foodborne infections. By lowering the rate of food poisoning cases through better food hygiene, productivity will be boosted and in turn, will be of benefit to the economy.

As calls for the mandatory display of ratings spreads across England, it is important for businesses to make sure they are fully committed to food hygiene and safety by putting it at the heart of operations.

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