How do you know that an establishment serving food is of a decent standard? If it looks good in the restaurant or at the counter, how do you know that it’s the same behind the scenes?
The answer is the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
Whether it is a supermarket, corner shop, takeaway or factory canteen, every establishment which deals directly with a consumer will receive a rating under the scheme.
Fortunately, South Holland fares very well with over 95 per cent of establishments rated “generally satisfactory” or better. And more than 40 per cent have the top rating.
But there is always room for improvement. There are 26 establishments rated either 1 or 2, which require differing levels of improvement. And one place has a rating of 0, which means urgent improvement is necessary.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, which is operated by South Holland District Council in partnership with the Food Standards Agency, sets out standards in hygiene, structure and confidence in management.
Each establishment is visited by food, health and safety officers unannounced on a regular basis. All those given a rating of less than 3 are offered guidance and coaching to improve.
Craig Fowler, who is Food, Health and Safety manager at South Holland and Breckland councils, said: “Many establishments advertise their rating on a window sticker.
“If they don’t, it might be worth asking yourself why. You are entitled to ask staff what the rating is.
“It’s also worth bearing in mind that the rating is based on what we saw on the day of inspection. Standards can change and the rating represents a snapshot in time.”
A lower rating might not necessarily reflect the premises’ cleanliness; it could indicate a lack of food safety management procedures. However, whilst consumers might form a positive opinion of what they can see ‘front of house’, it can be that the picture behind the scenes is not as good.
Cllr Malcolm Chandler, district council portfolio holder for regulatory services, said: “Our officers work hard to ensure that the residents and visitors to South Holland can have confidence in the places they choose to buy or eat food.
“The vast majority of establishments take pride in their premises and processes and deservedly get good ratings.
“Unfortunately there are establishments that fall below a decent standard and when they choose to ignore our coaching, we will take enforcement action to ensure that residents receive the proper standards from the district’s food retailers.”
• All ratings are available to view under a search facility at http://ratings.food.gov.uk
• Food hygiene ratings can be accessed on the move too. Download the FSA app onto your phone from the Android market or iTunes.