The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Northern Ireland last night welcomed the passing of the Food Hygiene Rating Bill in the Assembly. The Bill will mean that food businesses who sell food directly to the public, and who receive a rating under the statutory Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, will be required by law to display their food hygiene rating sticker at their premises. This includes restaurants, takeaways, mobile caterers, schools, hospitals, residential care homes, delicatessens and supermarkets.
Speaking after last night’s debate, Head of Local Authority Policy and Delivery at the FSA, Michael Jackson said, “The FSA is delighted that the Food Hygiene Rating Bill has passed the final consideration stage and is due to receive Royal Assent and become an Act here in Northern Ireland.
“We have been working closely with colleagues in the 11 district councils in NI who will be responsible for operating the statutory scheme, with a view to introducing mandatory display in October 2016. District councils will be writing to all food businesses within the scope of the scheme to explain the requirements and how it will work.
“Since the scheme was introduced in NI in 2011, the number of businesses voluntarily displaying their rating sticker has remained relatively low. From October 2016, it will become a legal requirement to display rating stickers and it will be an offence not to display a valid rating.
“In the months leading up to the introduction of the statutory scheme, district councils will be working with businesses to help those with a rating of less than 5 improve their level of compliance and to provide new ratings where appropriate, as well as to encourage those with a 5 rating to maintain their very good standards.”
The widespread display of the rating sticker will benefit consumers, giving them an instant indication of a food business’ hygiene standards and it will also be good for businesses as it shows customers just how seriously they take food hygiene.
Most importantly, the mandatory display of ratings will encourage those businesses with poorer ratings to improve their food hygiene standards and strive for a better rating. This, in turn, will reduce the likelihood of food poisoning occurring.
Food businesses should not find it difficult to reach the top food hygiene rating of 5, as all that they need to do is to comply with existing food hygiene law. It is the responsibility of food businesses to provide safe food and if they have put the necessary procedures in place to help them achieve this, then the rating scheme itself will not present a significant burden. The only requirement will be that they display the sticker at the front of house following inspection.
One difference with the statutory scheme is that when a business receives a rating of less than 5 and, having taken action to address the problems, requests a further inspection to get an improved rating they will have to pay for this (the fee has not yet been finalised but will reflect the associated costs incurred by the council in carrying out a re-rating inspection).