Recent revelations from the Food Standards Agency show that eleven food premises in Oldham were given a 1 rating for hygiene, yet over half of food business in England do not even display their food hygiene ratings certificates on their premises or online.
Councillor Howard Sykes MBE, who is the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group on Oldham Council, is giving the backing of his Group to the campaign by the Food Standards Agency and the Local Government Association for the Government to change the law so that all food businesses are obliged to display their ratings.
Council environmental health officers award a score of zero to five to food outlets, based on factors such as kitchen cleanliness, cooking methods and food safety management. The ratings are intended to inform customers when they are choosing to purchase a meal about the hygiene practices in that business, but only 49 percent of businesses in England display their rating.
Councillor Sykes, who is also the Leader of the Liberal Democrat councillors’ group on the Local Government Association, said: “We have all heard the horror stories about unhygienic food outlets with kitchens over run with vermin, filthy work surfaces and dirty cooking implements. Sometimes inspectors are forced to immediately close food premises because their practices are so bad and in Oldham we are active in prosecuting offenders. Customers need reassurances that any premises are safe for them to purchase food from.”
The Local Government Association is calling for the Government to change the law so that the display of hygiene ratings becomes mandatory on premises or on on-line apps, as it is in Wales and Northern Ireland, with offenders who fail to do so being prosecuted.
Councillor Sykes added: “Food hygiene inspections clearly help drive up standards and protect people from being served unsafe food. Isn’t it common sense then to have the ratings that result from these inspections on display? It is only right that customers can see these ratings as they enter a premises or order food online in order that they can make informed choices. I would ask customers to question why a food business does not have its rating on display – I would never purchase food from an outlet which fails to do so.”
According to the 2018 Food Standards Agency report, ‘Display of food hygiene ratings in England, Northern Ireland and Wales’, the rating is visible outside 49 per cent of premises in England, compared to 84 per cent in Wales and 82 per cent in Northern Ireland.
Under the food hygiene rating scheme, a business is given one of the six hygiene ratings from 0-5 as follows: 5 (very good); 4 (good); 3 (generally satisfactory); 2 (improvement necessary); 1 (major improvement necessary); 0 (urgent improvement necessary).
Mandatory display of food hygiene ratings is supported by The Food Standards Agency, consumer organisation Which? and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health.
Environmental health officers can serve enforcement notices, prosecute and close food establishments where conditions are found to be poor.