You only have to search through online media to discover story after story about zero food hygiene ratings. To prove the point, here’s an article relating to zero rated Birmingham food outlets. Granted this is from April 2019 but there are many, similar, recent stories, countrywide.
Why do some food outlets have low ratings?
What is not apparent, from stories such as that above, is the root cause behind such failures. To help begin understand that, let’s look at the three primary factors scored to give the Rating:-
- Compliance with Hygiene – which examines how food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
- Confidence in Management – which examines how the business manages ways of keeping food safe. This looks at processes, training and systems to ensure good hygiene is maintained.
- Structural Compliance – which examines the physical condition of the business. This includes cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control and other facilities
This has to be led from the very top. By this we mean that the managers of the food outlets must be confident in food safety management. This is part 2 above. They need to know what is an appropriate food safety management system. They need to know what conditions should be like and how to practice good food hygiene.
Gaining confidence in food hygiene management
The media stories we have talked about tend to sensationalise about food hygiene standards in food outlets. Don’t misunderstand us here, we are glad that Food Hygiene Ratings is in the public eye! But what there isn’t, is a survey or study, as far as we can tell, that examines why some managers succeed and some fail, in maintaining a good rating. This is really down to good food safety culture, which is always led from the top, and cascades down into the workforce. This is the “ethos” of just wanting to do things right, in terms of food hygiene. Some managers, we suspect, just have that ethos, and others don’t. Those that don’t probably aren’t all just horrible people who don’t care if consumers become ill, or injured from their food. Some quite probably, simply don’t know what makes a good food safety management system, and how to lead it.
Ignorance is no defence
Of course a food business owner can’t just stand up in court and say “I didn’t know food hygiene was that important!” There is plenty of advice and guidance in, for instance, the Food Standards Agency website, and within their Safer Food Better Business Pack. And now, with the advent of systems like our very own HygieneCheck app, there is an effective way of self inspection of food hygiene standards. It is possible for every food business and food business manager to have a strong ethos of food safety. It is possible for every business to gain a 4, or that magic 5 out of 5 when they are visited by an Environmental Health Officer. And with the increasing visibility of Food Hygiene Ratings (just look at the Scores on the Doors site!), who wouldn’t want to maximise their custom and revenue!