As many as 92% of diners believe forcing venues to display their scores would make eating out safer for customers and encourage businesses to improve their standards, according to a poll of consumers by Checkit.
Food Standards Agency (FSA) director of regulatory delivery Nina Purcell said: “These findings demonstrate that the public relies on food hygiene ratings when choosing where to eat – and that nearly all consumers want to be able to immediately see the rating of food businesses before they choose where to dine."
Publicly displaying food hygiene ratings is currently mandatory in Wales and Northern Ireland but voluntary in England.
Purcell added: “The FSA is currently developing the case for making display of ratings mandatory in England and this research shows that consumers would very much welcome such a move.”
The survey reported that almost two thirds (61%) of consumers would not eat in a pub that had a rating of two (out of five) or below, with 91% saying they regularly favoured venues with a four or five score.
Local authorities across England have already pledged their support for making it mandatory to display ratings.
If such legislation was passed, failing to display scores would be punishable with fines and prosecution.
Just over half of food businesses in England have achieved the highest food hygiene rating of five, according to data from the FSA.
The Morning Advertiser (MA) reported in September that the number of pubs gaining a score of zero on the food hygiene ratings, the lowest possible mark a food business can be given, had consistently dropped across the pub sector over the past four years.
Food safety expert Dr Lisa Ackerley told MA at the time this was evidence that the food hygiene rating scheme was driving up standards.
But this hasn’t stopped a number of serious failures from making the headlines.
Pub company Mitchells & Butlers was fined £100,000 after a rodent infestation was discovered at one of its Birmingham pubs.
The company also admitted earlier this year to a breach of duty when hundreds of customers were struck down with norovirus after visiting a Toby Carvery in Exeter.
In October, the licensees of a Blackpool pub and hotel were fined £1,900 after environmental health officers discovered mouldy food, expired products and “grimy” equipment.