Hospitality industry leaders have attacked the Food Standard Agency's (FSA) decision to go with a six-tier "scores on the doors" scheme.
The FSA announced yesterday that it had opted for a six-tier scheme - essentially a five-grade rating of cleanliness, or a "zero" or "fail" rating, for each premises.
The scheme - currently voluntary - would cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland will maintain its current "pass" or "fail" regime.
Although the move will be popular with local authorities, many of which already make use of a five-star system, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) said it was "puzzled and disappointed" by the move.
The BHA said it was a particularly strange decision given that the FSA's scores on the doors consultation earlier this year hadn't featured the six-tier scheme as an option, focusing instead on two options: pass/fail or a three-star scheme.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the BHA, told Caterersearch: "It seems the FSA board has gone against its experts' recommendations by considering whether to go for ‘A' or ‘B' and opting instead for ‘C'."
Couchman said the BHA would raise the issue at ministerial level and had contacted the Government's Better Regulation Taskforce (which is designed to help cut down on red tape) to complain about the FSA's handling of the affair.
Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, was equally dismissive of the FSA's decision and described it as "ridiculous".
"Food outlets are either complying with hygiene regulations or they're not. A six-tier system will just make the whole thing confusing and unclear, which objects the whole object of the exercise," he said.
"How will a customer differentiate between premises that have four stars or five stars? As with so many well intentioned initiatives, the result is pointless red tape and overzealous regulation."
By Chris Druce
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