Most restaurateurs are aware of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme but how many know what it takes to get a good score? It is not mandatory for a food business to display its score. However, operators should take into account public opinion - people may well question why restaurants are not displaying their hygiene score and vote with their feet.
To gain a high score, you must be as fully compliant with food hygiene law as possible. Incredibly, many operators are not aware of, or do not understand, their legal obligations. Often, this is because they feel the legislation will be complicated or written in language they might not understand. True, some of it appears to be written with the sole purpose of baffling everyone, but the main requirements and duties are relatively easy to identify.
The two main pieces of legislation that every caterer should familiarise themselves with are the Food Hygiene (England) (Scotland) (Wales) (N.Ireland) Regulations 2006 and Regulations (EC) 852/2004. Both are easy to locate on the internet and are available to download.
Now let's look at the three main criteria environmental health officers will use to score your business. Ask yourself if any of them are new to you.
LEVEL OF LEGAL COMPLIANCE: FOOD HYGIENE AND SAFETY
Among the items that will come under scrutiny here are personal hygiene standards; control and monitoring of hand-washing; your arrangements for stock rotation (first in, first out); your ability to answer any customer enquiries regarding the presence of potential allergens in the foods you supply; the cleanliness of work surfaces and equipment including floors, walls and ceilings; and your pest control processes.
It is a legal requirement to train and/or supervise food handlers. The environmental health officer will want to see what your policy is and records must always be kept.
LEVEL OF LEGAL COMPLIANCE: STRUCTURE OF THE PREMISES
The design and construction of your premises must meet legal requirements. In addition your food operation should aim to achieve a satisfactory separation between areas for raw and cooked food handling and these areas should be properly ventilated and well-lit. Washing facilities should be provided for food and equipment.
Other aspects that will attract attention include: hand washing facilities (adequacy, accessibility, hot and cold, mixed running water, soap, drying facilities); waste storage/disposal (inside and outside); the cleanliness, availability and adequacy of staff changing facilities; and toilets (separation from food room, wash hand basin, cleanliness, ventilation).
CONFIDENCE IN MANAGEMENT/CONTROL SYSTEMS
A food business should have a written food safety management system and give due consideration to what food safety problems (hazards) might occur.
Following on from this, safe methods of working and good hygiene practices (controls) should be put in place to stop these problems occurring. In addition, regular checks (monitoring) should be made to ensure those controls are working and written records kept.
An examination will also be made of what technical hygiene and food safety knowledge is available to the company (internal or external), including hazard analysis/HACCP and the control of critical points.
David Bashford, managing director client services, Food Alert
TOP 5 food hygiene tips
â- Keep records - they will help with your ‘due diligence' defence. Always ensure reports that you receive (such as from the pest control contractor or the EHO) are marked off with the details of the action that you took
â- Make record keeping easy and relevant - try to avoid tick-box sheets that just end up being a habit at the end of the day, rather than being a useful tool
â- Use a torch to check standards of cleanliness in out of the way areas, eg, underneath equipment
â- Set a good example - wash your hands every time you enter the kitchen and wear protective clothing