90% of food businesses in Northern Ireland expected to be displaying food hygiene ratings……but only a third of us regularly look for them
Around 90% of food businesses in Northern Ireland should now be displaying their food hygiene rating sticker following the Food Hygiene Rating Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 coming into force in October. But, according to new research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA)[i], only a third (34%) of us regularly check food hygiene ratings before eating in a restaurant or takeaway. With an estimated 4.3 million meals expected to be eaten out in Northern Ireland over this festive period[ii] the FSA is urging people to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating before booking this Christmas.
The research, released ahead of the expected Christmas spike in restaurant bookings, found that although food hygiene and safety were of concern for 37% of people, only 6% said that they actively consider the food hygiene rating when deciding where to eat. Other priorities included:
· Quality/type of food (58%)
· Own experience of the place (32%)
· Location/convenience (23%)
· Good service (21%)
· Price (20%)
· Appearance (20%)
· Recommendation (19%)
Mark O’Neill, Senior Advisor, Local Authority Policy and Delivery, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: “We are pleased to see that so many food businesses in Northern Ireland are already compliant with the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which came into operation in October, making it mandatory for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings. This means that around 90% of businesses should now be displaying hygiene information on a green and black sticker somewhere easy to spot outside of their premises. We expect that consumers will be pleased with this development as our recent survey showed that 95% of people in Northern Ireland believe that businesses should have to display their ratings, which now they do.
“We are now urging people to make the most of this new transparency by looking for these ratings and choosing restaurants which score three or above this Christmas. That way we can all play a part in improving food hygiene standards in Northern Ireland.”
No matter what the hygiene rating of the food business, they now have by law to display the rating sticker given by the district council following inspection. This can range from ‘5’ which means the food hygiene standards are very good, down to ‘0’ where urgent improvement is necessary. This instant and visible hygiene rating information will help people choose where to eat out in restaurants, pubs and cafes this Christmas. It will also provide guidance when shopping and buying food in supermarkets and other food shops as well as for hospitals, care homes and schools.
· It is now an offence for a food business not to display their sticker in a position where it can be readily seen and easily read before entering the premises and the district council will take enforcement action where businesses do not comply.
· The Act means that the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is now mandatory, and replaces the voluntary scheme run since the end of 2011 by district councils and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
· The food business operator or relevant member of staff must, on being requested to do so, orally inform that person making the request of the establishment’s food hygiene rating.
· In addition to looking out for the green and black stickers on display outside the premises it is also quick and easy to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating online – just go to the FSA website: http://www.food.gov.uk/ratings<http://www.food.gov.uk/ratings>. Ideally consumers should be looking for establishments which score three or above.
· When any food business is inspected by a food safety officer from the district council they are checked and assessed on how the business meets the requirements set down in food hygiene regulations This comprises three elements:
· hygiene – how the food is prepared, cooked, reheated , cooled and stored
· the condition of the structure of the buildings – including the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
· how food safety within the business is managed and how the business records what it does to make food safe.
Findings from each of these elements are taken together and result in the food hygiene rating given. A low rating means that there are serious failings.
The food safety officer will provide a detailed report to the food business and will work with them to ensure that action is taken to correct standards.
· Anyone who has a concern about food hygiene standards of any business should contact the food safety team or the environmental health department at their district council or can report the problem online at food.gov.uk/enforcement /report –problem.
[i] Food Hygiene Rating Scheme – Biannual Consumer Attitudes Tracker (Wave 4), 14 November 2016 https://www.food.gov.uk/science/research-reports/ssresearch/foodsafetyss/fs244011w4
[ii] NISRA estimates the population of Northern Ireland is 1.86 million. Research by the FSA identified that each person is likely to eat 2.3 festive meals (Online poll of 250 adults in Northern Ireland, conducted by Censuswide (October 2014) on behalf of the Food Standards Agency). 1,860,000 multiplied by 2.3 is 4,278,000 https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2014/13198/look-before-you-book
Food Standards Agency (FSA)
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