Here you will find frequently asked questions regarding the food hygiene rating scheme.
What is a hygiene rating?
A hygiene rating shows how a food business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene laws after an inspection. It is this rating that will create the score for the food hygiene rating scheme.
We look at:
- how hygienically the food is handled - how it is stored, prepared, cooked, re-heated, and cooled
- the condition of the structure of the food premises - the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
- how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe
As part of the food hygiene rating scheme, at the end of the inspection, the business will be given one of six ratings based on the above criteria. These are set out below:
5 - very good
4 - good
3 - generally satisfactory
2 - improvements necessary
1 - major improvement necessary
0 - urgent improvement necessary
I own a food business, will it be inspected?
The scheme is aimed at premises supplying food directly to consumers, including restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, mobile traders and other places where consumers eat.
Places where public access is limited but where food is prepared, cooked or handled and served, such as schools, hospitals and care homes will also be included, as will retail shops and supermarkets.
Your business will be inspected and all businesses included within the scheme will be issued with a score between zero and five (five being the best). Following the inspection, you will be told in writing either at the time or within 14 days what your food hygiene rating is.
A new rating is given each time the business is inspected by a food safety officer, and the greater the risk rating the more frequently the business is inspected.
If a new business has been set up, or there is a new owner, it will not have a food hygiene rating to begin with but it may display a sticker that says 'awaiting inspection'. A rating will only be given after an officer has inspected the business to check hygiene standards.
What happens after a food business gets its rating?
The food hygiene rating score awarded to premises will be published on the food hygiene rating scheme website
and a sticker will be given to the premises showing the score awarded.
Businesses are not required to display their rating, although a higher rating is a good advertisement for businesses.
What can the owner of a business do if they think the rating given is unfair or wrong?
The owner or manager of the business should discuss the rating with the food safety officer who inspected the business. The officer should explain why the rating was given and provide ways for the business to improve its rating. The scheme does have some safeguards for businesses so as to be fair and transparent.
Why are businesses with poor ratings not closed down?
Businesses given ratings of '0' or '1' must make urgent or major improvements to their hygiene standards. The food safety officer will use enforcement tools as well as giving guidance to ensure improvements are made.
If the officer findsa business's hygiene standards are very poor and there is an imminent risk to health, the officer will take action to make sure consumers are protected. This could mean prohibiting part of its operation or closing the business down. This is quite unusual, as we aim to support good standards within our area.
We always try to educate and advise before taking formal action. Food premises are subject to visits at 'any reasonable time' from food safety officers.
Can a revisit/re-inspection be planned to get a new rating?
Yes, but only if the improvements have been made to hygiene after the last inspection. The owner or manager of the food business can only ask the council once for another inspection before the date of the next planned inspection.
Premises are automatically given a new food hygiene rating each time the business is inspected. The frequency of these planned inspections depends on the rating. The greater the risk, the more often premises are inspected.
If improvements are made to hygiene standards after the last inspection, a revisit can be requested to occur before the next planned inspection. This gives an opportunity for standards to be reassessed with a view to giving a new and higher food hygiene rating to that premises. A rating may also remain the same or drop.
How can a revisit be requested?
You should put your request in writing on the appropriate form to the food safety team. You will be given the contact details when you are notified about your rating.
You are recommended to look carefully at the comments the food safety officer made at your last inspection and make sure you have taken action to address issues raised. You can discuss anything you are unsure about with your food safety officer or ask for advice on how to improve.
This is important because you can only have one revisit between the council's planned inspections of your premises. The officer will look at standards generally - not just at the specific areas you have been working to improve - so your hygiene rating could drop. Usually, the revisit will not take place in the first three months following the inspection.
You must explain what actions you have taken on the issues raised at your last inspection, including supporting evidence. If the request is refused, you will be given an explanation and advice on action to take. If you do not agree with the council's decision to refuse your request, you can raise the matter with the lead officer for food. If you cannot resolve matters, you can use the complaints procedure for your council, details of which may be found on the authority's website.
If you make your request later than three months after your initial inspection, you may expect a revisit within three months but you will not be told a specific date and time, as food hygiene inspections will be 'unannounced'.
Can a rating be appealed against?
It is a good idea to firstly speak informally to the food safety officer that inspected your premises. This will help you understand how your rating was worked out and may resolve the matter without having to appeal.
You must lodge your appeal in writing (or by email) within 14 days of being notified of your rating. If you think the rating is wrong or unfair, or it does not reflect the hygiene standards at the time of inspection, you can appeal.
To appeal, you should complete the appeal form which is available here
, and send this to your council's lead officer for food. If you lodge an appeal, the information will show your food hygiene rating is 'awaiting publication'.
Your case will be reviewed (in some cases, a further visit to your premises may be required) and you will be notified of the result within seven days from the date the appeal was lodged and your hygiene rating will be published on the Food Standards Agency website.
If you don’t agree with the outcome of the appeal, you can challenge the council's decision by judicial review and should seek the advice of a solicitor.
What is the 'right to reply'?
The owner or manager of the business has a 'right to reply'. This lets the business explain any actions they have taken after inspection to improve standards, or explain any unusual circumstances at the time of inspection that might have affected the rating. It is not an opportunity to complain or criticise the food hygiene rating scheme or food safety officer.
Send your comments to the food safety officer in writing (or email) using the 'right to reply' form available to download here
. You will be given the contact details for the officer when you are notified about your rating.
There is no deadline for this, so you can submit your 'right to reply' at any time up until your next inspection, when you will get a new food hygiene rating.
Your council may edit your comments in order to remove any offensive, defamatory, clearly inaccurate or irrelevant remarks. Other than that, what you say in your 'right to reply' will be published online with your hygiene rating on the Food Standards Agency website.
How can I give feedback on the scheme?
You can contact our public protection department via email to email@example.com
or write to:
Commercial Team, Public Health Protection Unit
Northumberland Fire & Resuce Service
Northumberland County Council
West Hartford Fire Station
West Hartford Buisness Park
If you would like to submit comments to the Food Standards Agency, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
or telephone 020 7276 8435. Write to the following address:
Food Hygiene Ratings Team
London WC2B 6HN