How to Achieve and Maintain a High Food Hygiene Rating to Protect your Brand

The *2019 Food Standards Survey reports 66% of consumers refer to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme results to help them make decisions about where to eat or buy food. These results clearly demonstrate that food safety issues can seriously damage a hospitality business, but a five-star food hygiene rating can improve it.

Developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) scores food hygiene standards to help customers choose where to eat or shop for food. Five is top of the scale, indicating that hygiene standards are very good and fully comply with the law, and 0 indicates the need for urgent improvement.

The scheme applies to any business servicing food, including restaurants, takeaways, cafes, sandwich shops, pubs, hotels, care homes, schools and supermarkets. Once the food business is registered, an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) carries out an inspection to ensure the premises are safe for the public based on five areas and issue a score at the end of the visit:

  • Handling of food
  • How food is stored
  • How food is prepared
  • Cleanliness of facilities, and
  • How food safety is managed. 

Why are FHRS scores important to your business?

Receiving a ‘5’ rating is a great achievement and will inevitably increase footfall and ratings whereas below a ‘3’ indicates concerns from the local authority but does not necessarily mean that the business will be closed. As the FSA survey results clearly demonstrate, consumers refer to the FHRS results to help them make decisions about where to eat or buy food so it is important to get a high result in order to win customer trust and loyalty. 

Tips to the top – achieving a ‘5’ food hygiene rating

Having worked as an EHO, David offers the following advice around the main areas non-conformances are likely to occur:

  1. Keep it clean
    Good cleaning practice is essential to any food handling environment and it is important to recognise that responsibility of cleaning falls to everyone working on site with ultimate ownership shared by the Head Chef and the Site Manager. While not all surfaces require daily cleaning, ensuring that the entire site has a risk-based cleaning plan is vital.
     
  2. Eliminate cross contaminations risks
    Separating the raw and ready to eat is important in order to manage food poisoning risks from bacteria. Separate preparation areas and equipment for raw are good examples. If space means that a separate area is not feasible then time separation with robust clean down procedures can be employed.
     
  3. Pay attention to dates, ie. first in, first out
    It is important to ensure that that only in date product is used, and if the product goes out of date it is wasted via an agreed process. David recommends the best practice to minimise the risk of having out of date food is to operate a first in, first out policy for ingredients, and monitor suppliers so they dispatch their products in rotation. In addition to managing the date codes as labelled, ensure any decanted products have the correct date code applied and can be traced back to the original product packaging. ‘Best Before’ codes are applied to products where the main concern is quality, if you want to use product beyond the best before date then good practice is to ensure safety is not compromised. Rather than making the assumption, for example, ask the supplier to confirm in writing what extension could be applied.
     
  4. Make sure your staff have the ‘tools to do their job’
    Ensure damaged equipment is removed or replaced as any loose parts such as broken plastic or chipped glass can appear in food. Split wooden boards can harbour bacteria so should not be used. Make sure sinks are used for the intended purpose. Keep handwashing separate from food preparation and well stocked with soap, sanitiser (if used) and drying facilities.
     
  5. Ensure documentation is up to date and easily accessible
    Check that team members do their job and record their completion. Robust weekly and monthly checks with review of compliance diaries will highlight any areas of concern. Organised documentation will really boost an EHO’s confidence in the management of a site, especially ensuring that documents are up to date and stored in an easy to obtain place and know when any certificates required expire.
     
  6. Prepare the answers
    Regularly ask team members the same questions asked by auditors when they do their rounds and make it part of the normal routine. Consequently, when a team member is asked a similar question by an auditor or EHO they will have the confidence to answer correctly.
     
  7. Take ownership for pest control
    It is not enough to have a contractor manage pest control. A person within the FBO’s team needs to take responsibility to review the reports and act on the recommendations. Having knowledge of pest proof requirements and failing to address them does not demonstrate management commitment to sound hygienic processes and practices.

How can SAI Global help?

SAI Global are experts in audits and assessments of hospitality food businesses. When partnered with us we collaboratively work with you, supporting your business in not only achieving better FHRS scores but embedding a risk management culture, setting your business up for future success.

With SAI Global as your risk partner you benefit from:

  • Peace of mind – By managing and maintaining your compliance program you can be assured that FRHS scores will improve, enabling you to re-invest your time in securing business growth.
  • Empowered staff – Our auditing team all have operating experience and we utilised this with our coaching method to empower your staff to success.
  • Cost effective delivery – Using our leading technology and analytics capability we will ensure that you get the most value from your investment.
To find out how our hospitality experts can support you, contact us here.

Source: *2019 Food Standards Agency Public Attitudes Survey 

About the Author

David Peacock

David has worked in the food industry for more than 23 years across restaurant operations, enforcement, consulting and auditing on best practice. During this time, he has helped businesses comply with legislation and proactively highlight and remove business safety risks. In his role as Assurance Safety Manager at SAI Global, David supports hospitality businesses to implement a culture of continuous improvement in order to succeed in achieving their risk management goals.

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