With more people than ever using the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme (FHRS), a bad score really could make or break a business.

Official statistics published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) last week show that the FHRS is relied upon more than ever before to assess food hygiene standards. Food hygiene ratings can have a huge impact; a bad inspection can turn away customers in their droves whilst an excellent rating can build credibility.

Angela Towers, Head of the Food Hygiene Ratings Team at the FSA, said: "The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme gives consumers the information they need to make informed decisions about where they eat out and enables them to vote with their feet."

Food hygiene ratings are awarded by the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) and range from 0-5. The EHO will inspect the premises and provide an assessment as to how well they consider the business complies with food safety law.

How to appeal a food hygiene rating:

  • within 14 days of the inspection you will receive a written assessment
  • if the findings are unfounded you can appeal the award
  • firstly, contact the EHO and find out the reasons behind the assessment
  • an appeal must be made within 21 days of receiving the food hygiene rating
  • failure to do so within the 21 days means the rating will be published on the FSA website possibly resulting in reputational damage.

Dealing with a bad food hygiene rating:

  • the Right to Reply Scheme offers operators the opportunity to write to the Food Safety Officer and explain to its customers any steps it has taken to improve hygiene standards
  • you can request a re-visit before the next planned inspection which is an important step in getting an improved food hygiene rating
  • be aware some Local Authorities have introduced a charge to cover the costs.

At the re-visit the Food Safety Officer will assess the standards of hygiene at your premises and you will be notified in writing – either at the time or within 14 days – what your new food hygiene rating is. As with the original hygiene rating you can appeal this if you think it is unfair or wrong or submit a ‘right to reply’ for publication online at food.gov.uk/ratings.