27/10/2016 | John Brennan

John Barnes on the future of FHRS ratings

fhrs

27/10/2016 | John Brennan

John Barnes on the future of FHRS ratings

A recent announcement from the FSA that they are now developing the case for mandatory display of FHRS ratings in England has been met with mixed feelings. We asked our Strategic Advisor John Barnes to share his views.

During the Keynote Speech at the FSA’s Parliamentary Reception, FSA Chair Heather Hancock stressed the power of openness and transparency in allowing consumers to make informed choices, and the part this will play in the FSA’s future regulatory reforms. The display of FHRS stickers has been mandatory in Wales since 2013 and earlier this month it became law in Northern Ireland. “It isn’t a legal obligation in England. Yet”… said Ms Hancock.

Experience in Wales has been deemed a success with the percentage of food businesses having the top 5 rating increasing from 47% to 63% since the law came in. FSA evidence is that consumers are increasingly recognising the stickers and looking at FHRS scores when choosing where to eat, and that this competitive element of FHRS is driving up compliance. However, there are reservations from some stakeholders that businesses will suffer if this comes into effect in England, recently vocalised by Association of Licensed Multiple Retailer’s CEO Kate Nicholls in The Morning Advertiser.

As the FSA Chair confirmed in her speech “70% of people in England recognise the stickers and nearly half now use the information to choose where to eat”. So, this does indeed mean there is a likelihood that businesses with low ratings will suffer, just as there is the likelihood that those with good ratings will benefit. Either way, consumers have good information about business hygiene standards and it is clear that the FSA sees the greater transparency provided by mandatory FHRS in England as an important future regulatory measure to improve compliance levels.

There are some practical issues to overcome to achieve this, not least concerns over Local Authorities having the necessary resources to deliver timely ratings and re-visits. This was acknowledged by Ms Hancock, giving reason to some of the industry concerns, but the current discussions taking place with stakeholders as part of the FSA’s ‘Regulating Our Future’ programme suggest that FHRS in England could be seeing some significant changes by 2020.

As we revealed in our blog, Shield Safety Group has developed a specific FHRS service to support any business with a low rating quickly improve their rating to minimise its effect on the business. The new service will offer organisations or individual businesses on-going expert advice as well as a support network throughout any official re-visit process. The wider range of service offerings from Shield Safety will also help businesses prepare for their Local Authority FHRS rating visit, making sure the right standards are in place to achieve or maintain a top FHRS rating – supporting clients to get ready for any local authority ‘knock on the door’.

Shield Safety Group has unique expertise in this area, employing the largest team of Environmental Health Practitioners in the country who have extensive experience and training in delivering FHRS ratings in a Local Authority setting – the skilled workforce available at your fingertips is unrivalled.

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.