The national roll-out of the system, which rates a foodservice business’s hygiene standard from zero to five, is expected to eventually replace the many different ratings schemes currently employed by over 200 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
These local schemes often use varying methods for deriving the rating, have different numbers of tiers, and use a variety of symbols to represent the grading, such as stars or smiley faces.
The FSA believes a single, nationwide scheme will provide a “level playing field” for restaurateurs, cafes and pubs to help diners recognise and understand their rating.
Catriona Stewart, head of the FSA’s Food Hygiene Ratings Team, said: “We hope that (food businesses) will recognise that displaying a good hygiene rating is good for business. Diners will be better informed when eating out, as the hygiene rating gives them a glimpse of what is going on in restaurant kitchens.”
The FSA hopes to roll out the national food hygiene rating scheme to 167 local authorities by the middle of next year. Scotland is expected to develop its own food hygiene rating system in due course.
Last month a government report, prepared by Lord Young, called for the FHRS to be made compulsory, in a bid to “deliver the maximum benefit to consumers and minimise the costs to businesses”.
Jeff Rooker, chair of the FSA, said: “In developing this scheme, we wanted to give people the ability to judge for themselves whether they considered the hygiene standards of a food outlet to be good enough. If customers are looking for a hygiene rating, this will drive businesses to improve their standards.”
A recent survey conducted for the FSA, revealed that 86 per cent of consumers consider hygiene standards to be extremely important when eating out, and judge the hygiene standard of businesses on the appearance of the venue (68 per cent), appearance of staff (44 per cent), cleanliness of toilets (33 per cent) and word of mouth/reputation (22 per cent).
In association with Dartford Borough Council, the FSA has this morning launched the scheme at Bluewater shopping centre, where all 85 of its food outlets now bear a food hygiene rating.