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FHRS rating (Food hygiene rating scheme) for businesses
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is a guide for consumers in choosing food establishments to visit in the UK. The ...
- The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is a guide for consumers in choosing food establishments to visit in the UK.
- The FHRS evaluates food hygiene practices in your business, facilities and structure design, and the level of confidence you have in your management.
- The FHRS system raises brand recognition for those that have a high rating.
In any field, performance rating matters. The food industry is no exception to this fact. As part of the objectives of food safety agencies such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK, food safety ratings are given to food establishments. This type of rating is given as proof of a food business's approach to food safety and hygiene and how they manage their operations in their premises. Rating such as the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme of the FSA helps consumers decide which food establishment to go to.
The food hygiene rating scheme serves many purposes but two of its main objectives are to ensure food hygiene practices are applied and to communicate the results to consumers. Achieving a high rating appeals to consumers very much and can increase their trust in your food business. A good rating may translate as your concern to preserve public health and thereby positively affect your earning. As such, knowing how to get a good rating is essential for food establishment owners both for economic and safety reasons.
How well do you know the FHRS? Is it something you need? Is getting a low score the end of your food business? Allow us to answer all of your concerns and add more information about this topic in this article. Learn more and find out the best way to get a high FHRS rating.
What is FHRS?
As the term suggests, FHRS is a rating scheme that reflects the level of hygiene and food safety standards of your food business premises. This evaluation is a joint initiative of the Food Standards Agency and the Councils of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This scheme is one of the UK's approaches to ensuring that very high standards of food hygiene and safe food preparation are kept in food premises. The rating that your food business garners significantly affects the decision of consumers whether to try your services.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme definition
The FHRS is a programme composed of an evaluation conducted by the representatives of the Food Standards Agency and provides a score of how close does food businesses comply with the requirements of food hygiene law. The scheme uses a rating score of 0 to 5. This rating scheme awards you the score based on how you handle the food you produce, the physical soundness of your facilities, and the level of management you implement.
The FHRS was built to guide consumers on which food establishment is it safest to dine into. In addition to this objective, the scheme was also made to minimize the potential risk of food safety hazards and the occurrences of foodborne illnesses due to bad food handling practices. As food safety agencies conduct these rating schemes, they also serve as recognition for food businesses that adopt top-quality food hygiene practices.
What is an FHRS rating?
An FHRS rating is the score you get at the end of a food hygiene and safety inspection. This rating is issued with a formal letter and a sticker after inspection within at least 14 days. As previously mentioned, your food hygiene rating can range from 0 to 5.
The six different rating scores are equivalent to the following interpretations
0 - Urgent improvement is immediately required
1 - major improvement is needed
2 - some improvement is needed
3 - hygiene standards are generally satisfactory
4 - hygiene standards are good
5 - hygiene standards are excellent
The score you get carries the same interpretations throughout the rest of the UK. A rating sticker representing your score is handed to you which is required to be posted in any easily spotted part of your food establishment for consumers to see. Similarly, your score is also accessible online and can even be requested to be displayed on your digital platforms. The rating scheme shows the state of food hygiene practices of your food business during the time of inspection.
What are the criteria for an FHRS rating?
Food safety agency representatives evaluate the level of your business's food hygiene practices based on a set of criteria. These criteria mainly focus on the key aspects of your approach to food safety and how you manage everyday operations.
Specifically, your food hygiene rating will be based on the status of these three fields:
- Food hygiene and food safety practices
- The physical condition of the food facility and structure
- Confidence in management
Under each major element that inspectors evaluate for your national food hygiene rating, there are multiple criteria and tasks that make up your average food hygiene rating score. The FHRS programme, however, is not concerned with the quality of the food you produce as well as the level of customer service your establishment has. The programme is solely focused on the aspects of food safety in your operations.
To achieve the highest FHRS score, your food business must excel in all categories. In addition to the inspection report and rating which will be given to you a few days after the evaluation, the food hygiene inspector will give a detailed explanation of the inspection result. Alternatively, the detailed information of the inspector's report can be requested through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to your local authority in charge of the evaluation.
IS FHRS mandatory?
In Wales and Northern Ireland, the rating scheme focused on hygiene practices and food safety management procedures are legal requirements, whereas in England, it is not a legal requirement to post the results but it is highly encouraged. Your local authority is allowed to make a food hygiene inspection at any reasonable time. Inspections by food safety agencies can be announced or not and are called upon for various reasons including, but are not limited to the following:
- Regular food hygiene routine inspection
- Random sampling visit
- Follow-up verification visits regarding complaints
- Advisory visit
The time between inspections varies based on the type of food business and production operations your establishment has. Usually, food businesses dealing with high-risk food products can get inspected every six months. Alternatively, if food inspectors gain any probable reason such as complaints or unsolicited information about questionable food hygiene practices, they have the right to perform an unannounced inspection.
If your food business offers food that is being sold directly to the public, then you are covered by the FHRS. Routine food hygiene inspections are to be expected if your food establishment is one of the following:
- Restaurants and cafes
- Pubs and bars
- Food vans, trucks, and stalls
- Hotels, schools, and hospitals
Although these categories pretty much sum up most of the food businesses that are commonly seen, there are two exemptions to the food hygiene rating scheme.
An example of a premise that is exempt from the food hygiene rating scheme is:
- Low-risk businesses such as those that sell wrapped goods without the requirement of refrigeration
Additionally, businesses that solely offer home services are exempted from the rating scheme. These food businesses have a very low risk of harming the public and do not satisfy some of the major criteria for the evaluation.
What is an FHRS sticker for?
The FHRS sticker for display is provided to you with the final food hygiene inspection report and your rating is visual proof of your level of compliance with food hygiene. This rating sticker is required to be posted on the windows of your food establishment or any location where it is visible for consumers in Northern Ireland and Wales.
Additionally, the back of the rating sticker also gives information about the date of the inspection which resulted in this rating. It also contains the signature of the local food safety officer who evaluated your food hygiene procedures. A window sticker needs to be regularly updated especially with the growing awareness of consumers from all over the UK about their purpose.
Is an FHRS sticker mandatory?
Currently, the FHRS sticker is required to be posted in obvious areas of your food business in Wales and Northern Ireland since this rule has been established as part of their food hygiene law. On the contrary, posting your sticker rating in England is not mandatory but highly encouraged. The FHRS additionally requires food businesses to disclose their food hygiene rating to any consumer enquiring about the details. Examples of such inquiries would be through an email or a call.
The official website of the Food Standards Agency has released a study where they observed that 95% of food businesses in Northern Ireland and 98% in Wales are aware of the mandatory display of the FHRS sticker. Among these food establishments, a big part of them believes that this scheme is a good idea.
Displaying FHRS for business growth
When discussing the benefits of the FHRS, the focus is always on giving the consumers a guide for where to eat. In reality, the rating scheme works both ways. The FHRS can be used to the advantage of food businesses. That is, as the FSA and the local authorities impose food businesses to employ excellent food hygiene practices, your team is pushed to do better. In return, getting a good or excellent food hygiene rating score plays to your advantage by attracting more consumers.
Here are some benefits to displaying an FHRS rating:
- Profit gains. A good FHRS score attracts consumers as they get a glimpse of how you take food hygiene seriously. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, at least 31%, 39%, and 35% of food business owners, respectively, mentioned that displaying the FHRS sticker had a positive impact on customer reception.
- Brand recognition. Consumers in the UK have increasingly gained awareness of this scheme and are becoming more conscious of their choices. In addition to keeping food and services safe, the programme also helps in boosting recognition for food businesses.
- Consumer assurance. Having a good FHRS score increases the consumer's level of confidence in choosing your food establishment every time they dine out as they are sure to only get safe food. Knowing that your food business serves hygienic food ensures them that they are safe.
- Ensure high standards of food safety and hygiene. The FHRS programme implements very high standards in food businesses and their food hygiene practices. The assigned local authorities thoroughly inspect all related fields based on the given set of criteria.
The FHRS system does more than just give consumers a guide for a more informed choice of where to eat. One of the keys to ace the FHRS inspection is to have a comprehensive Food Safety Management System that can ensure food safety and food hygiene compliance. This is what the digital FSMS application of FoodDocs does best. We help you to set up your Food Safety Management System in 15 minutes and give you an automated and complete HACCP Plan in less than an hour.
How to display an FHRS rating online?
After approximately 14 days from the date of the inspection, your local food safety authority is expected to give you a letter containing the results of the evaluation. The FHRS score of a food business is also available online. It is the right of the consumer to know the FHRS of the specific food business. As such, food hygiene ratings are made easily accessible and are available for viewing here. You can also request food hygiene rating badges from the FSA website by searching for the name of your registered food business. These badges can be displayed on your websites, applications, social media accounts, or emails. These badges are also available at the food agency's search tool.
For food businesses that had reinspections as a routine or due to a request, there may be cases when the food hygiene sticker posted is not the same as the one provided online. This instance is because the FSA website takes about 28 days to upload and update ratings.
What if you disagree with your FHRS rating?
To ensure fairness among all food businesses, local authorities have provided safeguards for food businesses such as an appeal procedure for disputes with the FHRS score they got. As a food business operator, you know very well the standards that you employ in your premises. If you think that the decision given to your operations does not reflect the real standards you have during the inspection, you are allowed to appeal.
As mentioned, ratings of 0 to 4 will take some time before being published. The FSA advises that it would take 3 to 5 weeks before your rating is published online which is enough time for you to appeal. On the other hand, a rating of 5 will be published as soon as your local authority food safety officer uploads the results. To appeal, you are advised to first consult with your local authority inspectors to understand the reason for your score. A food hygiene appeal form is provided along with the letter of notification of your rating sent to you after the inspection.
What does a 1 hygiene rating mean?
Based on the FHRS standards a rating of 1 means that your food business "needs major improvements". Low ratings mean that your food hygiene practices, facilities and food safety management system are poor in quality. This rating may also reflect the lapses in food hygiene of staff and the lack of staff training in your program. Having deficiencies in food safety and hygiene management gives a bad impression to consumers and can affect your food business.
How bad is food hygiene rating 1?
Having a food hygiene rating of 1 reflects poor food hygiene practices and must be improved immediately. This low food hygiene rating can affect your food business in many ways and can include:
- Increased levels of food safety hazards
- Higher risk of foodborne illnesses and injury
- Lower consumer confidence
- Decrease in profit
- Increased frequency of inspections
- Enforcement actions
As your notification containing your ratings is released, your food safety officer will provide advice on what improvements to hygiene standards or if any formal action is needed, and how urgent are they. Failure to implement these changes can result in enforcement of any legal action ranging from suspension of license and prosecution to legally binding improvement notices.
What can you do to improve your FHRS rating?
The best way to improve your food hygiene rating is to enforce stricter standards on your operations and invest in training your staff regarding food hygiene matters. Everyone in your team needs to know how important food hygiene requirements are and what role do they play in applying them to your food business.
In addition to these suggestions, there are other ways to improve your FHRS before and after an inspection. Here are some steps that you can do:
Request an appeal. As mentioned, if you think that the rating that was given to you is unfair or it does not reflect the level of food hygiene you employ, you can follow certain steps t request an appeal.
Revisit inspection request. If your food business is currently operating with a food hygiene rating of less than 5, you can request a re-rating visit from your environmental health officer. This action is best if you have already applied the necessary improvements as pointed out by your local authority and you want to have a higher rating before a scheduled inspection. In requesting a re-inspection visit, you are required to submit documents as proof that you have improved your operating practices in addition to a re-rating visit request form. This step requires you to pay a certain fee. The agreed re-rating visit is expected to happen within two months upon accepting the request.
Express right to reply. The FSA has provided safeguards for food businesses such as your right to reply. You are allowed to explain to your consumers and your local authority any action in terms of food hygiene or structural improvements have you applied to enhance your standards through your right to reply. Similarly, you can use this opportunity to explain any unusual circumstance that took place at the time of inspection which may have affected your score.
Setup a comprehensive food safety management program. Perhaps your best bet to scoring a 5 in your FHRS inspection is to have a working FSMS which covers all of the necessary fields of the inspection.
Preparation and having an extensive understanding of the food hygiene regulations will significantly help you achieve a rating of 5 in inspections. Everyone in your team must participate and perform their roles to make an FSMS work. In case that despite doing your best, you still fell short in an inspection, you can always apply for a re-inspection or file an appeal.
Digital support for your FHRS inspection
Food hygiene and food safety inspections aim to protect public health from malpractices in the food chain that can result in foodborne illnesses or injuries. As a food business operator and owner, you have the responsibility to comply with food hygiene standards set out by local and international food safety agencies. To ease the burden of micromanaging your team just to comply with the requirements of any food hygiene law and implement an FSMS with just a few clicks, let us at FoodDocs help you.
We at FoodDocs offer a digital Food Safety Management System that automatically generates a program, flow chart, and monitoring sheets for your food business. Our FSMS was created by food safety experts who have undergone several food hygiene inspections and understand how the FHRS works.
By signing up with us, our system will automatically generate essential monitoring forms that are also automatically prefilled by our system. All that is left to do is for your team members to verify or change the data. These monitoring forms can be customized if you want to add anything such as specific tasks to your food business. Another feature of our FSMS is the notification system that we have when using our FoodDocs mobile app. Our mobile app automatically fills parameter readings, dates, and employee names based on previous data entries. Our system will automatically notify you if any parameter reading is out of standards for your immediate corrective action response.
Do not miss any food hygiene inspection as our system can alert you of any tasks that are due or if an inspection is scheduled. This same system can help your employees remember all food hygiene tasks needed to be satisfied in your daily operations. Our real-time dashboard automatically generates a productivity report for you that you can use to evaluate your operations. This report can be used to detect which criteria of the FHRS standards are your operations lacking the most.
Embrace the fastest and easiest digital solution there is in the food industry to ensure your hygiene standards are excellent and meet the best score of FSHR rating.