FSA backs compulsory FHRS display in England

Food Standards Agency (FSA) will demand that English food businesses are legally obliged to display their hygiene scores to raise standards.

The food safety watchdog’s draft strategic plan, which was discussed by the agency’s board last week, says it will ‘press for Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) mandatory display in England as well as Wales and Northern Ireland’.

A FSA spokesperson told EHN evidence from Wales and Northern Ireland will be used to build the case for legislation in England.

‘We consider that mandatory display will benefit both consumers and compliant food businesses, and will encourage other businesses to raise standards. Early indications are that mandatory display in Wales is having a very positive impact on compliance levels,’ said the spokesperson.

The FSA said mandatory display would not be a burden on business.

‘We do not believe that mandatory FHRS display in England would add a burden to businesses but we need to make this case with the supporting evidence to the government to support mandatory display in England. Public support has been steadily increasing and will undoubtedly strengthen the FSA’s case,’ said the spokesperson.

The FSA will be continuing to work closely with local authority partners in the scheme to ensure there is a level playing field for business across the three countries operating the scheme.

This follows the Northern Irish Assembly's decision to bring in mandatory display of FHRS in Northern Ireland.

Under the bill, which was published last week, businesses such as restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets would be required to prominently display their food hygiene ratings.

Businesses will be able to appeal against their rating if they consider it does not reflect the hygiene standards at the time of the inspection. They will also be able to request and pay for a re-rating inspection if they have carried out improvements.

There will also be a new requirement for food businesses to give their rating verbally if asked and it would make it an offence not to do so. This would allow those with a visual impairment or anyone phoning a restaurant or takeaway to find out a hygiene rating before booking or ordering.

The bill also proposes the introduction of fixed penalty notices for offences such as the non-display of ratings. There are also powers to prosecute with a proposed maximum fine of £1,000.

Michael Jackson, the FSA’s head of local authority policy and delivery in Northern Ireland said research shows that consumers make decisions about where to eat quickly, and the best way to influence them is to be able to see the FHRS rating on the premises.

‘We also know that only 40 per cent of businesses currently display their rating where it can be viewed from outside. Our view is that if the bill makes it compulsory for food businesses to display their ratings, then it will allow consumers to make better choices and will also encourage food businesses to comply with hygiene requirements,’ he said.

The Welsh government made the display of FHRS mandatory in 2013. Businesses achieving the best five rating have increased from a third to half over the past two years. The number premises with all other rating has fallen and the number of zero-rated premises – the minimum but still legally compliant - has fallen from 0.9 per cent to 0.4 per cent this year.

Ref: www.ehn-online.com/news

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