Your food hygiene rating has an important role to play in any food business. Bad inspection can be catastrophic to your business and even turn customers away. An excellent rating, On the other hand, is good for business. Keeping the result on the door will the customers happy and coming back for more which is good business for you.
If You Think Your Rating is Unfair?
Occasionally, a food hygiene rating may be unfair, and you can appeal it.
After your initial inspection, a formal assessment will be sent to you. This written document explains why you were scored the way you were. If you feel this judgement is unfair, then you have the right to appeal the award. This article will explain how the appeal process works and how you can arrange a re-visit from environmental workers.
What is Food Hygiene Ratings?
Food hygiene ratings are scores or grades that environmental health officers (EHO) give to companies that handle food. These scores range from 0-5 (with 5 being the highest). After inspecting a business, an officer assesses how well the food handlers and premises comply with food safety law and provides the appropriate grade. After the inspection, the EHO gives the food handler a rating. This rating has a number and a description of what that number means, for instance, a 1 rating means that the business needs a major improvement while a score of 5 means “very good.”
There are 6 types of food hygiene rating:
0 – Urgent Improvement Necessary
1 – Major Improvement Necessary
2 – Improvement Necessary
3 – Generally Satisfactory
4 – Good
5 – Very Good
Each business is given their hygiene rating when it is inspected by a food safety officer from the business’s local authority. The food safety officer inspecting the business checks how well the business is meeting the law by looking at:
- How hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
- The condition of the structure of the buildings – the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
- How the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe
At the end of the inspection, the business is given one of the six ratings from 0-5. The top rating of ‘5’ means that the business was found to have ‘very good’ hygiene standards. Any business should be able to reach this top rating.
How to Appeal a Food Hygiene Rating
To ensure fairness to businesses the Councils have developed an ‘Appeals Procedure’ to enable food business operators to appeal the food hygiene rating given to their food business establishment.
Should a food business operator consider that the food hygiene rating given by the ‘inspecting officer’ is unjust, she/he may appeal to the Lead Officer for Food or in his absence a designated deputy. In cases where the ‘inspecting officer’ who has given the food hygiene rating is the Lead Food Officer, the appeal will be determined by the Lead Officer for food in another authority. A food business operator can also appeal a ‘new’ food hygiene rating given to a food establishment following a re-inspection or re-visit that he/she has requested.
The Appeal Process
After the initial rating, the Lead Officer or his designated deputy will request that the ‘inspecting officer’ makes contact with the food business operator to try and resolve any disputes about the food hygiene rating informally. (If the inspecting officer is a contractor, then the district officer will make contact). This may mean further clarifying and explaining how the rating was derived.
Every effort should be made to resolve the matter at this stage before resorting to the appeal procedure. If the dispute cannot be resolved informally, the food business operator may within 21 days beginning from the date of notification, appeal in writing to be considered by the Lead Food Officer or in his absence a designated deputy. Until the outcome of the appeal is determined the rating will not be published on the website. Any previous food hygiene rating will be removed and ‘awaiting publication’ will be published instead.
The food business should remove any stickers on display at the establishment until the appeal has been determined. The examination will be settled within seven days of the appeal. And a new food rating will be published based on the result of the appeal. If you are still not satisfied with the result, you have a right to a judicial review. Note that even if you go to a judicial review, the FSA will still publish your rating on their website.
In England, businesses can appeal to the FSA Independent Business Appeals Panel if they have reasonable grounds for an appeal. You can find out if your appeal is reasonable by visiting trade association forum or look at government guidance on the business and industry section of the FSA website.
To ensure fairness to food business operators, they will be informed that they have a ’right to reply’ which must be published on their website with the food hygiene rating. The purpose is to enable the food business operator to give an explanation of subsequent actions that have been taken to rectify non- compliances or mitigation for the circumstances at the time of the intervention.
The food business operators can send comments electronically or in writing the council who will publish on the website. The ‘right to reply’ cannot be used to complain or criticise the ‘inspecting officer’ or the food hygiene rating scheme and therefore the text may be edited to remove any offensive, defamatory, clearly inaccurate or irrelevant remarks. The Councils may also edit comments on the ‘right to reply’ to remove duplication, vague or ambiguous text.
Requesting a Re-Visit
All businesses have the right to request a re-visit when the changes required have been carried out. To request a re-visit to your establishment, the Officer who carried out your inspection should be contacted. You must make this request in writing and show tell them reasons why you want a re-visit. This does not have a deadline. You may contact the officer anytime you feel that your establishment now meets the requirements. However, most re-visits usually occur after a period of 3 months or more except if you have made some changes to the structure or the equipment in your establishment. You will not be notified of the revisit. It will be impromptu.