The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has defended its decision to go with a controversial six-tier "scores on the doors" scheme in the wake of an angry reaction from the hospitality industry.
The move, announced last week, was described by industry leaders as "puzzling" and "ridiculous", but the FSA said the system, incorporating a fail rating and then five-tiers relating to the premise's cleanliness score, would be easier to implement as many councils were already making use of the format.
"Also, there was the view that a "five-star" scheme is something the general public are familiar with, whether that be in reviews of electrical goods or films," a spokesman added
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has expressed surprised by the decision, as the option to go with a six-tier scheme was not in the FSA's March consultation.
The BHA, which favoured a three-tier scheme, will raise the issue at ministerial level and has 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.
Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the BHA, also warned that with the FSA advocating a voluntary six-tier system the prospect of "scores on the doors" becoming mandatory had taken a step closer.
London's local councils are currently backing a bill in the House of Lords that would make "scores on the doors" mandatory if passed. Earlier this year the Lords said they would only pass the bill if it mirrored the FSA's recommendations.
"At the time it looked like this wouldn't match as the councils use a five-star rating and the FSA was consulting over a three or four-tier scheme but now it could fit," said Couchman.
Scotland will maintain its current "pass" or "fail" regime.
By Chris Druce
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