Following a request from the Sub-Committee, officers will give a presentation on how the food hygiene rating scheme operates in Havering and how it can be accessed by consumers.
The Sub-Committee received a presentation from the Interim Food Safety Divisional Manager. This gave an overview of the work of the Food Safety Division, an overview and the purpose of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme as well as the benefits to the local people, visitors and businesses.
It was noted that the number of food businesses operating in Havering had increased from 1586 in 2011 to 1892 in 2015. Each of these businesses had to be inspected on a regular basis according to food safety risk.
Officers explained that the Food Safety Division work consisted of:
· Food Hygiene Inspections
· Food Standards Inspections
· Investigation of complaints from members of the public
· Sampling for analysis
· Investigation of notifiable infectious diseases and or food poisoning
· Education, advice, coaching, information and intelligence gathering
· Feed Hygiene/ Standards Interventions.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme was a partnership between the local authority and the Food Standards Agency initiative for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This was to help consumers to choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving them information about the hygiene standards in food premises (found at the time they were inspected). This would in turn drive improvements in hygiene standards.
Officers explained how the rating worked. The scheme was simple for consumers to understand with a rating of “0” being the worst and “5” being the best. Simple words were used with each rating. Ratings of 3, 4 and 5 were considered acceptable and the premises were “Broadly Compliant”. Where ratings of 0, 1 and 2 were given there would be follow-up enforcement activity carried out. The frequency of follow-up inspections was dependant on the risk identified at the initial inspection. All visits were unannounced other than for establishments run from private homes.
Once an inspection has been carried out a rating was agreed and given to that business. The business was issued with a sticker which gave the rating on the front with details of the inspection on the rear. The stickers were encouraged to be displayed at the business, however this was not mandatory. Each business was obliged to inform the Council within 28 days that they would be operating a food business. The onus was on the operator to inform the Council and all business would be aware of this. If businesses were not compliant then support would be given to ensure that forms are completed so that ratings can be assigned. Where there was non-compliance the team could prosecute the business. The Sub-Committee noted that there were 200 unrated businesses as of January 2016.
Each premise with a food hygiene rating was sent to the Food Standards Agency so that it could be published. This was so that any person could check the ratings at www.food.gov.uk/ratings. A free mobile app, was available, which provided the same information. Information on the local authority, the address of the business, the postcode or the name of the business could be searched on. From this the consumer could see the rating of the business together with details about the location. It was noted that all ratings were at taken at a point in time so there would always be an element of risk.
The Sub-Committee was informed that the scheme did not apply to business which did not supply food directly to consumers for consumption “on” or “off” the premises. E.g. manufacturers, packers, importers, exporters, business to business suppliers. The scheme was also not applied to businesses which consumers did not normally recognises as food businesses e.g. chemists, off licensing selling only drinks and wrapped goods. However it was added that where a chemist or off license had a fridge with food goods, the Environmental Health Officer would make a judgement at the inspection as to whether the rating needed to be applied.
The officer explained how the scheme was integrated into the work of the Food Safety Division. He stated that each full inspection assessed the business on 8 different criteria (this included the three Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Critera (FHRS)). This determined when the next inspection was due to take place as part of the planned intervention programme.
The three FHRS criteria checked were:
· Hygiene: how hygienically the food was handled, how it was stored, prepared, cooked, cooled, reheated etc.
· Structure: the condition of the structure of the buildings, the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
· Confidence in management: how the business was managed, what it did to make sure food was safe, including documented procedures.
Each of these three elements were essential for making sure that food hygiene standards met requirements and food served or sold was safe to eat.
The mapping of numerical scores was explained to the Sub-Committee and how the three FHRS criteria were scored. The lower the overall number the better the score. It was noted that there was an appeal process in place should the business wish to appeal. Information on the number of premises inspected over the last 3 years together with the rating was presented to the Sub-Committee. It was noted that there were a lower number of premises with 0, 1 and 2 ratings in Havering.
Research had shown that food hygiene when eating out and food poisoning were the main concerns that people had about food safety. The scheme provided local residents and visitors with important information about hygiene standards in local businesses and empowered them to make informed choices about where to eat out or shop for food. By telling people about the hygiene standards was an effective way of improving public health protection. Officers stated that all business could achieve the top rating they just needed to comply with all the criteria. Good food hygiene is good for business, as well as profits. The feedback on the scheme from businesses had generally been positive.
The Sub-Committee noted that the Food Standards Agency’s strategy for 2015 to 2020 included extending mandatory display of food hygiene ratings at food outlets in England (as it currently was in Wales). The FSA was gathering evidence to inform the case to present to the Government for consideration and developing an impact assessment setting out the costs and potential benefits of introducing the legislation that would be required for mandatory display of the ratings.
Examples were given to the Sub-Committee of the concerns that are raised both from the public and during inspections.
The Sub-Committee thanked the officer for the very informative presentation.