Food Hygiene Ratings explained

How food hygiene ratings work

If you’re thinking about getting a takeaway or eating out you can do loads of research for Food Hygiene Ratings online. You can see the menus, read reviews from other people and even see how clean the establishment is, courtesy of the Food Standards Agency (the FSA).

It runs the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Food Hygiene Information scheme in Scotland. You might know them better, outside of Scotland, as Scores On The Doors – the black and green stickers displayed in many restaurant, pub and takeaway windows.

And the scheme is back in the news following a BBC investigation, which found nearly one in 10 establishments score a rating of two or less.

How do the schemes work?

Local authorities, in partnership with the Food Standards Agency, inspect food serving establishments. They’re specifically looking at how hygienic the business is.

What will the food safety officer will look at:

  • 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 and records what it does to make sure food is safe.
  • If the business is in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it will be given a score out of five based on the visit.  In Scotland, a business will either be given a Pass or an Improvement Required rating when it will need to take steps to improve.

If a business gets a 0 or 1, they need to make some urgent improvements fast.

Does a food business have to display the sticker?

No, although most businesses that score highly do very prominently. Obviously if you can’t see one, that might raise questions in your mind about the hygiene inside.  All scores are available by searching on the FSA website or by downloading the iPhone or Android phone apps.

If you want to know more about why an establishment has a particular rating, you can submit a Freedom of Information request to the FSA.