Turn that 0 into a 5 with food safety training

A post by Frank Post, the CIEH’s Executive Director for Commercial Services 

Food hygiene ratings 

Unless you’ve got a favourite eating establishment you regularly turn to, finding a restaurant to suit everyone’s tastes and pocket can be a time-consuming experience. Do you go for fish and chips, an Italian or maybe something a bit more sophisticated?   

What we don’t often take the time to think about is how our food got to our plate or takeaway box. What are the conditions in the kitchen like, do the chefs know how to handle food safely, where is the food being stored overnight? The list could go on forever but as I’ve said, it’s something we often don’t think about, if at all.  

But what would you do if you read a story where your favourite takeaway or convenience store received a zero score on their food hygiene ratings – what we like to call ‘the scores on the doors’?

Well this has been the reality for people up and down the country as there have been a number of news stories recently highlighting local establishments who received a zero rating, meaning urgent action was required.

Take for instance a story in the Birmingham Mail which reported that a discount store in the city centre has been named among the 'filthiest supermarkets' in Britain after it scored a zero hygiene rating in its last inspection by the Food Standards Agency. Food was removed from the store’s shelves for three days earlier this year after inspectors found an "imminent risk" from mice on the site.

And what about a prominent high-street supermarket and their convenience store in Highgate, quite the exclusive area in London, which was shut at the end of April after a rodent infestation.

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS) in Scotland helps consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving them information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, takeaways and food shops.

The scheme is run by local authorities in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and it is your council who is responsible for carrying out inspections of food businesses to check that they meet the requirements of food hygiene law.

Following an inspection, officers will give businesses food hygiene ratings based on their findings and then publish this information on the FSA’s website.  

If you live in Wales you must display the ‘scores on the door’ and the scheme is also running in all areas of Northern Ireland, where scrutiny of a draft Bill for mandatory display is currently underway.

While it isn’t mandatory for the rest of the UK, on the FSA’s website it says that the scheme in England runs in all but one local authority.

Mandatory or not, people are taking more note of these ‘scores on the doors’. Displaying a solid 5 stars is simply good advertising and conversely, if a shop or restaurant has a low score or doesn’t even display a score at all, it could have a damaging effect on your business.

So what do I hear you ask is the solution to prevent a low score? In the first instance, if you get a low score your business won’t be shut down right away and your inspector will also provide practical advice on how to make improvements and achieve a higher rating. Furthermore, the FSA has a range of tools on their website that can help a food-related business improve their food hygiene standards.

And seeing that the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is a leading awarding organisation dedicated to maintaining standards and improving health and wellbeing, we would recommend that businesses ensure all their staff are comprehensively trained in food safety qualifications.

All of our products are the best quality covering food safety, hygiene and nutrition courses. Training can be completed at different levels depending on how competent you want your staff to be or what level of technical knowledge do they need for their job and they are relevant for different industries whether that is catering, manufacturing or retail.

Learning outcomes include gaining a firm grasp of the importance of food safety and knowledge of the systems, techniques and procedures involved, as well as understanding how to control food safety risks, such as personal hygiene, food storage, cooking and handling.

It is important to point out that our training products do not have a specific module covering how to get a better food hygiene score. However, if you and your staff know everything there is to know about the dos and don’ts of food safety, then this will mean your premises are clean and hygienic, the very basis for achieving a decent Food Hygiene Rating.

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