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The different range of food hygiene ratings: How to improve yours

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

Understanding the range of food hygiene ratings is incredibly important for food businesses throughout the UK. Attaining a five-star rating should be the primary goal of every food business, but we understand that this isn’t always an overnight process. 

So, what’s the significance of your food hygiene rating? It offers customers reassurance that your business takes food hygiene seriously and that your business is safe and clean to purchase food from. Fortunately, 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.

We’re going to share some of our knowledge on the different range of food hygiene ratings, with a few handy tips you can follow to help you achieve a five-star hygiene rating in no time!

What does the food hygiene rating mean to consumers?

As all food lovers will know, you’re able to recognise which restaurants and food providers best take care of hygiene practices by the look of their windows or doors. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the governing body that determines how safe your food business is in relation to food hygiene. 

They oversee the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS), which is recognised throughout the UK as the holy grail for food hygiene standards. The scheme offers information to the public about hygiene standards to the general public. This can be direct food suppliers, restaurants, takeaways, supermarkets and even hospitals all fall under FHRS requirements.

What the food hygiene rating scheme means to consumers

Demonstrating your commitment to food hygiene and cleanliness is a surefire way to offer customers a guarantee that they are purchasing from a safe and hygienic food business. Consumers use the range of food hygiene ratings to make assessments and judgements on a particular food business. So, a poor hygiene rating can make or break the success of your business! 

Unlike Wales and Northern Ireland, it isn’t legally required to display your food hygiene rating on your business premises in England. It is however highly encouraged by the FSA. It offers transparency to customers on your premises too. 

The power is in the hands of the consumer, a quick look at the FSA website and they’ll be able to view all the food hygiene information and check out how your food business is performing for themselves.

What is the full range of food hygiene ratings?

Upon inspection, your business will be given a food hygiene rating. The range of ratings starts at the top with the highly-sought after five-star rating, working backwards to eventually get to the dreaded zero-star rating. Quite simply, that’s not a place you or any food business wants to be! 

The range of food hygiene ratings is as follows: 

  • 5 - Hygiene standards are scored as very good
  • 4 - Hygiene standards are scored as good
  • 3 - Hygiene standards are generally satisfactory
  • 2 - Some improvement is necessary 
  • 1 - Major improvement is necessary 
  • 0- Urgent improvement is required

Here’s a little more detail about each of the food hygiene ratings below…

Food Hygiene Rating 5 

This is the creme de la creme of Food Hygiene Ratings. You’ll receive a rating of 5 if your organisation receives between 0 and 15 points. This is the standard that your food business should aspire to achieve. 

Food Hygiene Rating 4

Receiving a Food Hygiene Rating of 4 means that your food business is considered to be a good provider of food, at least for the concerns of food hygiene. You can score a rating of 4 by receiving a total of 20 points in your inspection.  

Food Hygiene Rating 3

A middle-of-the-road score, receiving a food hygiene rating of 3 means your performance is satisfactory. You will score between 25 and 35 points to receive this food hygiene rating. Although there is room for improvement, these issues won’t be an immediate threat to any individual.

Food Hygiene Rating 2

This is where things start to get a little dicey and improvement is needed. A score in the region of between 35 and 40 points will mean you score a food hygiene rating of 2. This will raise some questions about the type of food hygiene practices your business has in place. Receive this rating and it means that there is some room for improvement needed to uplift your food safety standards. 

Food Hygiene Rating 1

A food hygiene rating of 1 is not a good look for your food business. It means major improvements are needed. You will score between 45 and 50 points to receive this rating. Generally, it will mean there have been multiple breaches of food hygiene rules found and there is a lack of food safety training and awareness shown by staff. 

Food Hygiene Rating 0

The lowest of the 6 ratings means that urgent improvement is absolutely necessary. You would receive a score of 0 if your premise received more than 50 points from the inspection. The way most premises would receive this amount of points would be through a major food hygiene breach, and similarly, anything else that puts an individual's health at immediate risk.

How to achieve a 5-star food hygiene rating?

If you want to improve the hygiene rating of your food business, then the best starting point is to assess your current food safety measures. Are they adequate in relation to the standards of each food hygiene rating? If so, how do you maintain this and preserve the precious five-star rating? If not, what areas require addressing to improve this? 

Be scrutinous in your approach when carrying out your checks and ask yourself the following questions. 

  • How is your food prepared? 
  • How are you storing your food? 
  • Is your kitchen cleaning schedule up to scratch? 
  • Do all food handlers follow strict personal hygiene guidelines? 
  • What systems are used in the business, and can they be improved? 

Cross-checking these areas of your business against the elements of the hygiene inspection is also essential. 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 business can pinpoint anything they need to change for the better to aim for a higher rating.

Our top tips to improve your five-star hygiene rating

We’ve compiled a few handy pointers for you to help you along. Follow our tips and you’ll be well on your way to achieving the coveted five-star hygiene rating (if you haven’t already, of course!)

  • Ensure staff adhere to good hygiene practices and are appropriately trained
  • Use safe food storage systems
  • Understand and implement the HACCP concept
  • Prevent cross-contamination across your kitchen or food preparation areas
  • Ensure cleanliness to maintain good hygiene standards
  • Keep records up-to-date and accurate

Staff food hygiene training

Food safety 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 include providing clean clothing (such as aprons), wearing appropriate headwear, wearing minimal jewellery, and regular hand-washing. 

Safe food storage

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. 

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 - and making 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, then dispose of it.  


HACCP is a food safety management system that can 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. 

Cross-contamination prevention

When handling raw foods there is a risk of cross-contamination, therefore you need to ensure the appropriate steps are 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. 

Cleanliness and hygiene standards

It is important to have a cleaning rota, so your staff know their responsibilities. Duties should include 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 cleaned and bins emptied regularly. 

Keeping records updated

Keeping accurate records is extremely important when it comes to food safety and hygiene. In the event of an investigation into your 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).

How often are food hygiene ratings done?

Well, it all depends on how well you perform during inspections. If your food business poses a risk and has a lower rating, then it means you’ll be subjected to an inspection every six months. 

Businesses that don’t pose a risk and have a higher rating are often inspected every two years. For companies that are in a very low-risk category, the assessment may even be more than two years. Ultimately it is down to the officer to decide how long is needed between each visit.

If you aim to have fewer inspections, it is important that your business remains up to date with all food safety laws and hygiene standards.

Achieve a five-star hygiene rating with our range of courses

In summary, we can’t stress the importance of having a strong food hygiene rating for your business. A good hygiene rating means a good business, and that’s the bottom line! 

We offer the following food hygiene training to equip your business with all the tools and knowledge you need to help your business achieve a five-star rating. 

Our food hygiene training package is a combination of all three food training courses, giving you a rounded overview. You can then illustrate this to your customers, thanks to your printable certificate that is free to download upon completion of any of our courses. 

So, if our training options sound like they’ll benefit you, then contact us today and we’ll be on hand to offer any advice that you need.

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