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How to improve your Food Hygiene Rating

A chef preparing raw meat on a red chopping board in a kitchen taken from iHASCO's Level 3 Food Safety & Hygiene course

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is recognised throughout the UK, and having a five star rating should be the aim of every food business. This will give consumers confidence that food safety and hygiene is taken seriously within the premises. The rating is awarded after an inspection but if food safety and hygiene has been properly adhered to and staff have been trained appropriately, a 5 star rating is more than achievable. The good news is that if your food business hasn’t yet achieved 5 stars, there are key areas to look at to help improve your food hygiene rating.

At the inspection, the officer will check the following three elements:

1. How hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
2. The physical condition of the business – including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control and other facilities
3. How the business manages ways of keeping food safe, looking at processes, training and systems to ensure good hygiene is maintained. The officer can then assess the level of confidence in standards being maintained in the future

Food Standards Agency

What does the food hygiene rating mean to consumers?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) found that the food hygiene rating scheme is being increasingly used by consumers to assess food hygiene standards. This finding stems from the FSA’s public attitudes tracker which, among other things, documents changes in consumers attitudes to food related issues. The results show that 85% of respondents were aware of the hygiene standards in places they eat out at or buy food from, with food hygiene ratings stickers (66%) and the general appearance of the premises (59%) being the most common ways to assess this. This shows that it is even more important for eating establishments to understand the role the food hygiene rating can play in the success of their business. Consumers have power as they are able to access the FSA website which allows users to find out the food hygiene rating of any food outlet they want to check out.

How do you achieve a 5 star food hygiene rating?

If a food business wants to improve their food hygiene rating they should look at what they are currently doing relating to the elements of the inspection. This includes food preparation, food storage, kitchen cleanliness, food handlers personal hygiene and the systems used in the business. The inspector needs confidence that these can all be maintained on a daily basis. If a top rating is not achieved the officer will explain actions that can be taken to improve the hygiene rating. This is a good starting point and reviewing the points below will also provide tips on if a food businesses can pinpoint anything they need to change for the better to aim for a higher rating.

Ensure staff adhere to good hygiene practices and have been appropriately trained:
Teaching staff expected processes and procedures underpins good food safety and hygiene in a business. Staff training is crucial and ensuring a standard training programme is followed and accurate records are kept means that every worker is invested in achieving high standards. New starters need to receive training and existing staff need refresher training to ensure the ongoing success of good food safety and hygiene. Key expectations in practising good hygiene includes providing clean over clothing (such as aprons), wearing appropriate headwear, wearing minimal jewellery and regular hand-washing. 

Use safe food storage systems:
A food business needs to understand how to store food safely. This involves ensuring that raw and cooked foods are not stored alongside each other and in racks, not on the floor. For example unwashed vegetables are classed as raw food and they have the potential to contaminate other food as they could be covered in bacteria such as E-coli. Other considerations include ensuring that food is stored at the correct temperature - make sure fridges and freezes are set to the correct temperatures. Also ensure use by dates are clearly displayed and there is a system in place to make sure food is monitored so if it is past its use by date it is disposed of. 

Understand and use HACCP:
HACCP is a food safety management system that will help food businesses comply with legislation requiring them to manage food safety hazards. Following the HACCP principles will help businesses involved in the production and sale of food ensure that it is safe for people to consume. Having staff actively practice HACCP will ensure systems are in place that can lead to a 5 star food hygiene rating. 

Prevent cross contamination:
When handling raw foods there is a risk of cross contamination so appropriate steps need to be taken to avoid it from happening. Using coloured chopping boards for certain foods and having separate areas in the kitchen for different food preparations will help limit the risks. 

Ensure cleanliness:
It is important to have a cleaning rota which will ensure that staff know their responsibilities and that ovens are cleaned on a weekly basis and fridges cleaned monthly. Antibacterial sanitiser and cleaning rolls should be kept so they are readily available to mop up any spills as well as for general cleaning. Sinks should be clean and bins emptied regularly.

Keep records up to date and accurate:
Keeping records is very important when it comes to food safety and hygiene. In the event of an investigation into a business’s food hygiene practices records will go towards proving that processes have been followed. This includes recording fridge temperatures, cleaning measures, staff training and potential food safety hazards (which is part of HACCP).

The importance of food hygiene training 

If a business is practising good food safety and hygiene regularly then the likelihood of achieving a 5 star food hygiene rating is much more likely. It makes good business sense to provide safe food and be on top of training so you can aim for the highest food hygiene rating of 5 stars! 

iHASCO offers online food safety & hygiene training for everyone working in a food environment and the level required will be dependent on the role and involvement with food. iHASCO’s Learning Management System allows a business to keep track of everyone’s training, detailing who is still required to complete a course to who needs to renew their training. Record keeping and administration should be simple so businesses can concentrate on ensuring staff are confident they can adhere to best food safety and hygiene practices. iHASCO really does make training simple. 

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