Call for mandatory food hygiene rating display

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Mandatory introduction: the ratings scheme is compulsory in Wales and Northern Ireland but not in England (image: Getty/navorolphotography)
Mandatory introduction: the ratings scheme is compulsory in Wales and Northern Ireland but not in England (image: Getty/navorolphotography)

Related tags Health and safety Hygiene + cleaning Food

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has renewed its call to introduce a mandatory food hygiene rating for food businesses, such as pubs, in England.

The body for the environmental health sector stated this would enable consumers to make informed choices about where they eat and purchase food.

While the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme (FHRS) is compulsory is Wales and Northern Ireland, which was introduced in November 2013 and October 2016 respectively however, it is voluntary in England currently.

Just over 55% of food businesses in England display their hygiene ratings, compared with 89% in Wales and 87% in Northern Ireland.

The most recent survey of 5,900 consumers from the Food Standards Agency, which was from November 2020 and January 2021, found of the respondents who had heard of the FHRS, a large majority (95%) thought food businesses should be required by law to display their rating at the premises.

Information cited

The CIEH also cited information from the National Audit Office, which found between 2012/13 and 2017/18, local authority expenditure on food hygiene dropped by about a fifth (19%) from £125m to £101m and food hygiene staff numbers fell by about 13%.

In 2019/20, local authorities in England had 2.9 officers per 1,000 food premises compared with 5.5 in Wales and 4.3 in Northern Ireland.

In addition, according to the CIEH Workforce survey, councils in England are not funding enough training of the next generation environmental health professionals.

More than half (56%) of local did not have any paid or unpaid trainees in environmental health in 2018/19 or 2019/20 and nearly three quarters (70%) did not have one environmental health apprentice.

Primary reasons given were not having any budget (66%) and not having the capacity to mentor (52%).

Informed decisions

CIEH Wales director Kate Thompson said: “We have long called for the display of food hygiene ratings to be made mandatory in England.

“This key information would help consumers make informed decisions about where they eat and purchase food and compel food businesses to display their ratings.

“Transparency when it comes to food hygiene helps to drive up standards and this certainly has been the experience of the schemes in Wales and Northern Ireland.

“However, we recognise a mandatory requirement to display ratings would need to be coupled with measures to ensure there are adequate resources for this work as those in the devolved nations.

“A mandatory scheme in England would need to be adequately resourced to ensure its credibility and sustainability.

“There would also need to be investment to top up training and ensure consistency in delivery of the scheme across England.”

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