CIEH calls for mandatory FHRS

Tony Lewis, CIEH head of policy, has appeared on BBC breakfast time TV calling for the mandatory display of food hygiene rating scheme (FHRS) scores in England. 

Under FHRS, food businesses, including restaurants and takeaways, are awarded a hygiene score of from zero to five based on an inspection by local authority EHOs. The rating takes into account structure, hygiene practices and confidence in management. Display of the score became mandatory in Wales in 2013 and in Northern Ireland last year.

Calling for a ‘level playing feld’, both between England and the devolved nations and within England itself, Mr Lewis told the programme that the present situation is unsatisfactory. He said: ‘We know that the scores incentivise businesses to improve their performance and that they are liked and relied upon by the public. It’s wholly inconsistent that the same system does not apply the across the whole country.
‘The Food Standards Agency’s “regulating our future” programme along with changes that will inevitably follow post-Brexit presents us with a good opportunity to put this right. With the FSA, CIEH, Which? and the Local Government Association now all agreeing that England is losing out and calling for change, the momentum behind this is becoming unstoppable. It’s time for the government to act.’

The FSA has made public its calls on ministers to make display of FHRS scores a legal requirement in England. In 2015, the agency presented research to government providing robust evidence that FHRS had resulted in significantly increased business compliance with food safety. It argued: ‘the scheme is driving up standards. It is currently the best proxy measure for public health protection.’

In its plan ‘regulating our future’, the FSA states: ‘Strengthening FHRS is a key goal, including ensuring that it is sustainable and that there is mandatory display legislation in England.’

A survey carried out by consumer organization Which? in 2013 found that 95 per cent of people thought that hygiene ratings should be clearly displayed on food businesses’ windows or doors. A Which spokesperson said: ‘The scheme has the potential to raise levels of compliance across business but while display remains voluntary for food businesses, it will be largely the better performers that display this information, rather than those that present the greatest risk to consumers.

Earlier in the week, the Local Government Association had added its weight to the calls. Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board said: ‘The post-Brexit review of EU laws gives the government choices. With mandatory hygiene rating display already in force in Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK leaving the EU provides a crucial opportunity to toughen up food safety laws by extending the legislation to England.’

According to the FSA, there are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen, making more than half of cases. The next most common is Clostridium perfringens. Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admission. Poultry meat is the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning.

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