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Chief Scientific Advisor;

December 8, 2017

Chief Scientific Adviser’s Science Report – the highlights

It’s fair to say that the topic of Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) has been a prevalent one throughout 2017…

Chief Scientific Adviser’s Science Report

As we head towards the end of the year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the Chief Scientific Adviser’s Science Report on the scheme highlighting some interesting figures which show that FHRS, and especially mandatory display of FHRS, has driven up food safety compliance.

Introducing the report, Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Guy Poppy said: ‘The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme has been a significant development for food safety and one which has delivered tangible benefits for consumers across the country. The scheme has empowered people, helping them to choose to eat in places with higher ratings. This in turn has pushed restaurants and other food businesses to drive up hygiene standards to attract more customers.’

On the rise: standards and awareness

The report shows standards of hygiene and food safety have been improving year-on-year with 67% of business now rated the top standard of FHRS 5 – very good, and 95% achieving a rating of ‘3 – generally satisfactory’ or better.

As standards are increasing, so is consumer recognition. 44% of respondents now check the rating before deciding to purchase food from an establishment, most commonly by checking the sticker displayed in the food business door or window (62%). Other organisations including Just Eat and food and music festivals also use the food hygiene ratings to determine the businesses that they will work with.

The research carried out by Professor Poppy and the team also found that the better the rating the smaller the chance of foodborne illness from the business, and that lower rated businesses had higher levels of microbiological contamination – assessed through routine sampling and surveillance exercises – and therefore presented a higher risk to consumers in relation to foodborne illness.

Mandatory display

In Wales and Northern Ireland, general consensus is that the introduction of mandatory display has been a help rather than a hindrance for businesses in driving up standards. 56% of food business operators have reported a positive impact as a result of displaying their ‘5 – very good’ stickers. It has also aided the increased consumer recognition of the scheme to 90% in Wales and 85% in Northern Ireland as published in the most recent FSA Public Attitudes Tracker.

Perhaps in light of this, the FSA remain keen on mandatory display in England as reaffirmed by the Chairman of the FSA Heather Hancock:

“The plans for seeking approval from Ministers are being aligned with the FSA’s Regulating Our Future programme which is redesigning how food businesses are regulated. As hygiene ratings are based on inspections this will ensure that we have a robust and credible scheme that continues to deliver benefits for consumers.”

This move is supported by the general public, a majority 84% of consumers think that businesses should have to display their food hygiene rating at their premises.

Sustainability

The report concluded with a reference to the sustainability of the system, stating: ‘Strengthening the robustness and resilience of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is a key goal, including ensuring that it is sustainable and that there is mandatory display legislation in England.’ This alludes to the need for adequate LA resources necessary to deliver timely and accurate ratings, concerns also raised by Shield Safety clients and the industry generally. (See our blogs from Strategic Advisor for more on this John Barnes on the FSA’s recent ‘Regulating our Future’ paper and on the latest FHRS updates)

We asked John Barnes, our Strategic Advisor, for his view on the report:

This is an excellent and timely report which shows how the profile of FHRS has grown and how it has improved food hygiene standards, consumer protection and choice. The excellent work of LAs who have now embedded FHRS in over 430,000 local food businesses should not be underestimated. However, improved compliance, risk-based inspection programmes and diminishing LA resources are reducing the frequency of FHRS rating visits in many areas to 3 years or longer, reducing its accuracy and relevance for consumers and businesses alike. Whilst fully supportive of mandatory display in England, I do not believe it can (or will) be agreed unless this issue is effectively addressed within the FSA’s Regulating Our Future programme, given the pressures on LA resources in England are more acute than in Wales or NI.”

Improving your rating

The figures from the FSA Report speak for themselves, with the importance of FHRS for all parties on the rise. Our case studies show this in practice for clients Flaming Cow and Gainford Group who improved their FHRS rating, and were awarded 5s, through our FHRS Re-visit Service. Their ratings, which they display proudly, now reflect the high standards they strive for.

Is your business falling behind your competition it comes to improving standards?

To start improving your FHRS rating or simply drive up standards in your business contact Shield Safety Group on 020 3740 3744 or email sales@shieldsafety.co.uk.

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official Food Safety, Fire Safety and Health & Safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email hello@shieldsafety.co.uk.