When you go out to eat, do you check the food hygiene rating sticker displayed in the window?

Some people don’t even notice that there is a rating often displayed at a restaurant, but it may not be as reliable as it seems.

The Food Standards agency are an independent government department who inspect businesses that sell food and drink, then provide them with a hygiene rating. The rating is given to a restaurant to help customers make an informed decision whether to eat at that restaurant. A food safety officer examines the premises of the business to ensure that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law.

Recently Truthfal has gained knowledge of a Cornish restaurant that was displaying an incorrect rating in the window of their restaurant, which was then removed the same day that they were contacted.

Upon investigating it was made apparent that it is not illegal to display a false rating and that the Food Standards Agency have no legal right to remove an incorrect sign.

David Robertson, Senior Environment Officer at Cornwall Council said: “At the moment there is no legalisation that prevents them from displaying a sign, it is just misleading the public.

“They can’t be prosecuted, we would visit and ensure they are displaying the correct sign. It is just a matter of time before it becomes legislation, but at the moment we can only persuade them to take it down.

“Very often businesses don’t display a rating below a certain standard.”

The Cornish restaurant responded to the fact they had an incorrect rating in the window. They said: “This sticker was for a previous rating. It is not actually a legal requirement to remove previous scores. However, we have recognised that this could be misconstrued, and have therefore removed it in the interest of our customers.”

Despite the restaurant having a low rating, a customer who ate there last Monday noticed the incorrect food hygiene sign in the window, as she went there with the knowledge that it had been given a zero star rating.

She said: “I’m not that fussy when it comes to stuff like that because I figure if it was horrifically and dangerously gross it would have been shut down. It won’t make me stop eating there.

“It was really nice, the food was so good, nice music, the waiters were lovely and the atmosphere was really chilled.”

Although the majority of businesses display the correct rating, or do not display one at all, you can check the ratings on- http://ratings.food.gov.uk

When a restaurant is inspected, they are given the rating based on three main areas:

  • 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 what it does to make sure food is safe and so that the officer can be confident standards will be maintained in the future.

Zero is the lowest rating, when this is given to a business it means that urgent improvement is required. A rating of five is the highest achievable.