When starting a food business, whether it is a cafe, restaurant, bakery, or a shop, you realize how many documents need to be done, including a HACCP...
How to get a 5-star food hygiene rating?
Reviews and ratings are the backbone of every business. In the food industry, they come with an additional level of ...
Reviews and ratings are the backbone of every business. In the food industry, they come with an additional level of significance: your consumer's health.
As a business that serves or sells food, you need to think about what could go wrong with the food you handle and what you must do to ensure that all the food you serve is safe for your customers. The easiest and most effective way to guarantee a safe and happy food experience is to put a food safety management (FSM) system in place.
Your food safety management system also has another important job to perform: to help you achieve that 5-star hygiene rating you've been aiming for - and keep your business growing!
Achieving a top food hygiene rating
The food hygiene rating scheme was established and is monitored by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to rate UK-based food businesses on their hygiene and safety standards.
The higher your rating, the safer your food, and you should always aim for a 5-star rating. Food hygiene ratings allow consumers to make informed choices and help grow your business while doing that – the higher your rating, the more trust your customers have in you.
The Environmental Health Officer assesses your establishment in 3 criteria before awarding you with your rating: hygiene, structure, and confidence in management:
- Hygiene: how your food is prepared, cooked, cooled, stored, and what measures are taken to prevent contamination.
- Structure: condition of your premises in terms of cleanliness, lighting, ventilation, layout, lighting, etc.
- Confidence in management: how you manage and record what you do.
You are awarded a score in each area and these scores are added to give you your final rating. To get top marks for your establishment in the food health rating, you first need to ensure that you have completed everything from your previous inspection's report. Your food hygiene rating will be influenced by how you have responded to the advice given to you in the past, so make sure no problems from the last inspection pop up during the new one. (This will bring down your “confidence in management” score.)
And then there are other things to keep in mind.
Tips for getting a 5-star food rating
- Ensure your food is prepared in a hygienic manner. Employ safe food preparation practices to guarantee that no contamination occurs during food preparation. This includes using the correct cooking temperatures and the kitchen staff wearing the correct clothing.
- Set up a safe food storage system. Ensure that raw foods and cooked foods are stored in separate places, that food does not go past its expiration date, and that your staff know how to store food safely and avoid contamination.
- Train your staff. To avoid contamination, your staff need to have in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of food safety and the HACCP system. If you are reopening after a longer closure, a refresher training should be undertaken, even if the official training is not yet out of date.
- Focus on cleanliness. A clean food handling environment is the ultimate basis for getting a 5-star hygiene rating – around a third of your food hygiene marks are given for cleanliness and structure. This means following a strict waste management system, setting up a cleaning schedule (including time for deep cleans) and sticking to it 100%.
- Keep all records up to date. Accurate records are another vital element. Amongst other data, your records usually include staff training dates, cleaning schedules, temperature checks, etc. Switching to digital records makes them readily available to everyone who needs to access them and saves you time.
- Use a reliable FSM system that is based on the principles of HACCP.
What is the purpose of a food safety management system?
FSM systems like HACCP have been developed over recent decades to equip the food industry with first-rate tools for controlling food safety. It is a legal requirement to have a FSM system in place as the government wants to achieve its public health goals. Food safety is part of the bigger picture.
Your HACCP plan is designed to reduce food safety risks to an acceptable level or to eliminate specific food safety hazards entirely. In recent years, technology has lent a helping hand to making food handling a lot safer for everyone.
Benefits of digital technology
Kitchens are fast-paced areas. The staff that prepare and cook meals have a heavy workload. The legal requirement to complete daily paper checklists notably impacts on their productivity and time. Additionally, making amendments to incomplete records is time consuming for the managers. On top of this, paper records need storage space and extra preparation time for when the regulators show up.
Food safety audits that report poor outcomes often identify inadequate temperature monitoring and incomplete paper-based records. You try to do your best but having a 100+ page paper log in the kitchen is not good enough to prevent a food safety incident. Paper logs come with many risks and limitations and are now considered an old-fashioned and mostly inefficient way of monitoring - not to mention their uncanny ability to impede everyday business activity. :)
Replacing paper logging with digital technology frees up valuable time for your staff and enables them to be more productive, while food safety is being monitored in a reliable manner.
5 benefits of food safety software
A digital system helps to ensure compliance by using data-logging equipment that provides temperature data, time and date stamps. Since digital monitoring of data can be immediately analysed, using sensors to collect temperature data from different equipment reduces the likelihood of inconsistent measurements or delays in recording because you will be immediately notified of out-of-range readings and missed checks.
When the temperature sensors pick up a change in the environmental conditions, your staff are immediately alerted. They can notice issues before they become critical, quickly transfer food to appropriate storage areas or throw away food that does not meet safety standards, reducing the risk of waste, recalls, withdrawals and retrievals. That is time and money saved. And it also benefits the environment. Big time.
Depending on the food safety software, all logged information is either stored in the cloud, internally, or transferred to external storage through a wireless connection. You can access it immediately when needed and don't need to dedicate time to it in the future.
#4 Audit readiness:
The traceability of all your food products is readily accessible, as is the complete recorded history of your sensor readings, schedules and staff training updates.
Automating a large number of food safety management tasks allows you to make your entire establishment more efficient. All data captured is immediately visible to everyone, while notifications are sent regarding document and certificate due dates. All this means less time spent looking for things, dates and the correct folders.
Digital food safety software enables you to monitor the state of your kitchen operations in real-time. Reviewing digital data makes spotting various trends easier and clearer, and improving necessary performance procedures quicker. All this data that is now available to you, also helps you make better strategic decisions for your establishment.
An investment into digital food safety software gives you the confidence that you can manage food safety in the most sensible, secure and effective way - and get you that ace 5-star rating you deserve!