New proposals to force all food businesses in Wales to display a food hygiene rating on their premises or face a hefty fine have been outlined today.
The Welsh Assembly Government has introduced its Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill, which aims to give consumers more information and raise food hygiene practices among food businesses such as restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets.
Fixed penalty notices of £200 for offences such as non-display of a rating have been proposed, as well as powers to prosecute, with a maximum fine of £1,000.
Following consultation on the proposals earlier this year, there is a new duty on businesses to verbally inform customers of their food hygiene rating if requested and an associated offence if they refuse to do so.
The Bill now also includes provisions to include businesses that supply food to other businesses. In Wales, more than 17,500 of the 30,000 businesses that would be covered are already part of the voluntary scheme operated by local authorities and the Food Standards Authority (FSA).
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: "The Bill will introduce a simple but effective public health measure that will empower consumers and help to improve food hygiene standards.
"Food hygiene is essential for the protection of public health. The rating scheme will help drive up standards and benefit both consumers and businesses.
"The scheme will enable consumers to make a more informed choice about where they choose to eat or shop for food, while good food hygiene means a higher rating, which is good for business."
If the Bill becomes law, the earliest a mandatory scheme could come into force is late 2013, in order to allow businesses to prepare.
It will be the first compulsory scheme in the UK, but other countries and cities already operate similar mandatory schemes, including Denmark, New York, Auckland and Los Angeles county. There has been a 20% decrease in food-related hospitalisations in Los Angeles since the regulations were introduced in 1998.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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