Food Hygiene Rating SchemeThe national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme has now been running in Northern Ireland for one year.
This national scheme, developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, provides information on food hygiene standards to help you choose where to eat out or shop for food.
Last year the branding for the scheme changed and businesses began displaying new certificates and stickers with a rating between zero and five.
How does the scheme work?Food outlets, such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs, are inspected by food safety officers from Belfast City Council. During the inspection we check that their hygiene standards meet legal requirements and cover areas such as:
- 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, including having a completed safe catering pack or equivalent, the previous history of compliance in the business and staff training.
The table below shows what each rating means:
|Food hygiene rating||What does the rating mean?|
|One||Major improvement necessary|
|Zero||Urgent improvement required|
How can I find out what the rating is for a takeaway or other food business?When you eat out or shop for food, you might see a sticker in the window or on the door, or a certificate on display, showing you the hygiene rating for that business. We encourage businesses to display these stickers and certificates in a place where you can easily see them when you visit.
These stickers and certificates will also show the date the hygiene standards were assessed by our food safety officer.
If you don't see the rating at a takeaway or other food business, you can ask a member of staff if the business is in the scheme and what rating was given at the last inspection.
Does a food business have to show its rating?No. We're encouraging all restaurants and other food businesses to display their rating, but we can't force them to. Making it mandatory for businesses to display their rating would require new legislation so the scheme is adopting a voluntary approach for now. However, even if businesses don't display their rating, consumers are able to access the information on the national website.
What does 'Awaiting Inspection' mean?If a new business has been set up, or there is a new owner, it won't have a food hygiene rating to begin with but it can display a sticker or certificate that says 'Awaiting Inspection'. A rating will be given after we've inspected the business to check the hygiene standards.
What does exempt mean?Two groups of business where you might eat or buy food are not given food hygiene ratings - these are exempt. We inspect exempt businesses but we don't give them a rating.
The two groups of exempt businesses are:
- Businesses that are a low risk to people's health in terms of food safety and that you wouldn't normally think of as a food business. For example, newsagents, chemist shops or visitor centres selling tins of biscuits.
- Childminders and businesses that offer caring services at home.