A Bradford MP is campaigning for all takeaways, restaurants and cafes to be forced to display their Food Standards Agency hygiene scores on their doors for all to see.
David Ward (Lib Dem, Bradford East) said customers had a right to immediately know how clean a premises was without having to check the details online where the ratings are recorded.
His comments come as figures show there are more than 25 food premises in the Bradford district which have received the lowest zero ratings after recent food hygiene inspections. They include a major Sikh temple in the city and the Khidmat Centre, where the Bradford Council for Mosques is based.
The list also includes a butcher’s shop, restaurants and takeaways.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Standard Agency (FSA) in partnership with local authorities.
Environmental health officers carry out inspections and give the businesses a hygiene rating from zero to five based on the conditions they find.
Officers look at three factors: whether food is prepared hygienically, whether the building is fit for purpose and how well food safety records are kept.
Companies are given stickers with their scores on, but displaying them is not compulsory. The ratings are published on the FSA website. Of the district’s 3,382 food businesses, 27 have been given a zero rating, meaning urgent improvement is needed.
On its website, the Food Standards Agency says: “Those with ratings of zero are very likely to be performing poorly in all three elements and are likely to have a history of serious problems.
“There may, for example, be a lack of sufficient cleaning and disinfection, and there may not be a good enough system of management in place to check and record what the business does to make sure the food is safe.”
In Wales it is already compulsory for food businesses to display hygiene ratings, but Mr Ward wants to see this extended to England too.
He has tabled a Parliamentary Motion on the matter, and has also written to Bradford Council and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
Mr Ward said: “The majority of people will not have the time or think to check a premises’ rating online before going there, so it only seems fair that people are fully informed through the introduction of a mandatory display of scores-on-the-doors.
“The introduction of a compulsory display of scores-on-the-doors would not only give the customer a fair deal, but would also rightly provide recognition for businesses that maintain high standards and highlight those which do not.”
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said it was important for customers to be able to see the ratings when deciding whether or not to buy food, and welcomed the new rules in Wales.
She said: “We will be monitoring the impact of the new legislation in Wales and will review the current voluntary approach in England in light of emerging findings. In the meantime, our focus is on working closely with businesses to increase the number voluntarily displaying their ratings at their premises.
“We are also promoting the scheme to consumers so that they look out for the distinctive green and black ratings stickers. With increasing numbers displaying these, consumers are likely to draw their own conclusions where they do not see a rating.”
Councillor Andrew Thornton, the Council’s executive member for the environment, said the local authority supported the idea of making it compulsory to display scores, but he accepted this would require national legislation. He also warned that the Council would “not hesitate to take action” against unhygienic businesses.
He said this could include shutting them down if they posed an immediate risk to public health. When premises scored zero out of five, it could also face prosecution for food hygiene offences, or be served with an improvement notice requiring the operator to carry out specific works within a certain time.
He said: “We will work with business owners to help them improve, but where they ignore our advice we will not hesitate to take action, including putting those responsible before the courts for prosecution. All food premises in Bradford are risk-rated and inspected accordingly. ”
How the hygiene star ratings work
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by the Food Standard Agency (FSA) and local authorities.
Environmental health officers visit all food premises and give them a hygiene rating based on the conditions they find at the time of the inspection.T
he ratings range from zero – meaning urgent improvement is necessary – to the top score of five.
Officers look at three factors:
- How hygienically the food is handled, prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored;
- The condition of the building, its cleanliness, layout, lighting and ventilation;
- And how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe
The results are published online at food.gov.uk/ratings, and the business is also given a distinctive green and black sticker showing their score, which they can display at their premises.
Businesses which dispute their score can lodge an appeal, request a re-inspection or explain steps they have taken to improve matters through a right-to-reply system.
In Bradford, firms given a zero rating have to be re-inspected either six or 12 months after the original visit, depending on the type of business.
Alternatively, anyone who requests a re-inspection is visited within three to six months of the original inspection.