Legislation is currently progressing through the NI Assembly which will make it compulsory from October 2016 onwards for all food businesses within the scope of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme to display their food hygiene rating.
The black and green food hygiene rating sticker will have to be displayed in a conspicuous place, at or near every entrance to a food premises where it can be readily seen and easily read by customers before they enter the establishment when it is open for business.
The purpose of the new legislation is to improve consumer’s access to information on the food hygiene rating of food businesses.
The Food Standards Agency in partnership with local Councils in Northern Ireland are working with businesses to ensure they are prepared for the introduction of the statutory scheme and have achieved as high a food hygiene rating as possible prior to the launch of the scheme.
Moving to the statutory scheme
The legislation will allow for ratings that have been given under the voluntary scheme to be transferred to the new statutory scheme.
The rating given to businesses who receive an inspection before October will be their statutory rating that must be displayed from October 2016 onwards.
For businesses who do not receive a food hygiene inspection before October, they will be required to display their current food hygiene rating as it will be transferred to the statutory scheme.
Businesses who have not achieved the highest rating possible are encouraged to take the necessary action to improve compliance as soon as possible. Reference should be made to the letter issued following the last food inspection for information on the main areas of non-compliance.
Once action has been taken to address any issues of non-compliance (as well as complying with food hygiene legislation) the business may submit a Request for a Revisit which enables a re-rating inspection to be undertaken. This may be requested even if a business has already requested one since the last inspection. A new rating will be issued which will become the statutory rating that must be displayed. Note that the new rating is based on the level of compliance at the time of the re-visit and it may go up, remain the same or even go down.
Ratings and how they are calculated
Ratings in the statutory scheme will be calculated in exactly the same way as in the current scheme based on the three elements of Food Hygiene and Safety, Structure and Cleanliness and Confidence in Management.
The hygiene standards found at the time of the inspection will be rated on the same six tier scale, with 0 being the lowest to 5 being the highest.
Obligations under statutory scheme
- Display – Once a business is notified of their rating they will be required to display the sticker provided. This will normally have to be done within 21 days of receiving the rating to allow for the appeal period. A business may display their rating before the end of this 21 day period if no appeal is to be lodged.
- Online display – If a business provides a means of ordering food online, either directly or through a 3rd party, they will also be required to display their rating online, or provide a link to the FSA website where ratings are published (www.food.gov.uk/ratings). Further guidance on this requirement will be provided to relevant businesses in due course.
- Informing the customer – Under the statutory scheme food business operators and their employees will be required, if asked, to tell customers the rating the business has received. This will apply in a face to face situation as well as over the telephone
Safeguards for businesses – New fee for Revisit Requests
The scheme’s safeguards of appeal, request for revisit and right to reply will continue to be available. From October 2016 however there will be a fee for requesting a re-rating inspection (re-visit) however this fee amount is yet to be confirmed. Businesses who intend to request a re-rating visit are advised to do so as soon as possible as once the display of ratings becomes mandatory in October a fee will be payable and there is also likely to be an increase in demand for such visits at that time.
Failure to Display a Rating – Fixed penalty
Under the mandatory scheme it will be an offence for a business not to display their food hygiene rating sticker or to display a rating that is not valid without reasonable excuse. The new legislation introduces a fixed penalty for these offences however the amount is yet to be confirmed.
Further advice on improving a food hygiene rating
Businesses requiring specific advice on how to improve their food hygiene rating or for any other information on the statutory scheme should contact their local Environmental Health office on the telephone numbers below as appropriate.
- Ballycastle Office – 028 2076 2225
- Ballymoney Office – 028 2766 0257
- Coleraine Office – 028 7034 7171
- Limavady Office – 028 7772 2226