The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) helps consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving them information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, takeaways and food shops.

The FHRS is run by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the FHIS in Scotland. The schemes encourage businesses to improve hygiene standards. The overarching aim is to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. The FHRS is now running in all areas of Wales and Northern Ireland and in 99% of England.

Ratings are given to:

  • Places where you can eat out such as restaurants, takeaways, cafés, sandwich shops, pubs, and hotels
  • Other places you eat away from home, such as schools, hospitals and residential care homes
  • Places where you shop for food, such as supermarkets, bakeries, and delicatessens.

Some places where you might eat away from home or buy food are not given a rating. This is generally because they are a low risk to people’s health, for example, a newsagent selling only wrapped sweets. Childminders and businesses that offer caring services at home are not given ratings too.

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You can find out businesses ratings through the following link http://ratings.food.gov.uk/.

A food safety officer inspects a business to check that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law. The officer is from the local authority where the business is located.

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 what it does to make sure food is safe and so that the officer can be confident standards will be maintained in the future

Each of these three elements is essential for making sure that food hygiene standards meet requirements and the food served or sold to you is safe to eat.

The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are then rated on a scale. At the bottom of the scale is ‘0’ – this means urgent improvement is required. At the top of the scale is ‘5’ – this means the hygiene standards are very good.

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If you are a business owner and you are unhappy with your food rating you should speak to the local authority food officer that inspected your premises.

Businesses do not have to display their rating unless they are based in Northern Ireland or Wales where it is mandatory. Whether mandatory or not it is good to advertise your rating and show consumers that you are meeting the requirements of food hygiene law. Some businesses may have 'awaiting inspection' in their window, this may be because it is a new company or because the business has a new owner.

If your business has a low rating we can support you with improving this by:

  • Re-visiting your premises to undertake an inspection
  • Training your employees
  • Liaising with the local authority once you have made improvements

The need for businesses to display their food hygiene rating is very likely to soon become mandatory in England too.