The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Guide

If you handle or prepare food in work, you should know about the food hygiene rating scheme. Every eligible business in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a rating. It is an indication of how the local Environmental Health Officer (EHO) has graded your premises, according to the national food safety standards. It is a legal requirement that you meet these standards, lest you face the wrath of the EHO.

You must understand the food hygiene rating scheme and use it to your advantage; this is vital to the future of your business. A customer may glance at the rating in your shop window and decide accordingly whether they trust your food. Moreover, search engines and social media commentary have a growing effect on the success of food establishments. The Internet favours those businesses which meet food hygiene requirements.

How are food hygiene ratings calculated?

When you open a food business, you must inform your local authority, so they can place you on the inspection rota. From that point on, you will be periodically visited by an EHO, who will assess your food safety practices in three categories:

HygieneHow the food is stored, prepared, cooked and so on.

Structural – Ventilation, pest management, the cleanliness of your work area etc.

Confidence in Management – Assessment of the capability of the management team. Reviewing food safety practice, cleaning records and whether the staff are appropriately trained or not.

‘Low Confidence in Management’ is usually a very prominent feature of a low score report. A lack of adequate training often raises questions about the manager’s capacity to lead the team.

The EHO is not trying to catch you out; their role is to keep the public safe. EHOs allocate points to any issues they find in the three areas mentioned above. The more points, the lower the rating. Accordingly, you should see an inspection as an opportunity to demonstrate your good practice and overall quality. Prepare for the EHO visit properly and you will benefit.

food safety and hygiene

5 Stars

The top rating; the EHO found that every area of the business met the highest food safety standards. This is very achievable. For example, within 5 miles of my location there are 250+ rated-businesses, of which 70% boast a 5-star rating.

4 Stars

There were a few minor areas for improvement. In general, 4 is considered a good rating but you must work a little to get the top score.

3 Stars

Generally satisfactory; the issues that scored badly are not immediate threats. However, this does mean that there are areas in which you can improve.

2 Stars

Problematic. If you receive a score of 2, you should be concerned. The EHO clearly thinks improvements are necessary.

1 Star

1 means the inspector found a need for major improvements. Commonly, this points to poor management of staff training.

0 ratings are rare but they do happen. The inspector issuing this rating has serious concerns for public safety which require immediate action. The HMO has the power to close your business; they understand the consequences of poor food hygiene.

Do I need to display my rating?

If you are in Wales or Northern Ireland, you must display the score where it can be clearly seen by your customers. However, in England, you are not required to show your rating. That said, a 5 is something you should boast about, with which you can influence potential customers.

So, according to the food hygiene rating scheme, how can you achieve that top score? You should sensibly and unbiasedly assess your practice to understand where you need to improve:

• Am I meeting standards across all three areas? Are my staff adequately prepared to maintain these standards?
• Is everyone able to demonstrate they are trained and knowledgeable?
Are my premises clean? This involves more than wiping down surfaces. The EHO knows the areas where bacteria can hide and multiply which may not seem immediately obvious.
Have I improved since the last inspection?

Want more information about food hygiene training?

You will be awarded a good rating for keeping a clean and safe environment, maintaining good paperwork and ensuring your team are properly trained in safe practice.

You can take our Level 2 Food Hygiene courses, entirely online, in just 1 to 2 hours. Moreover, with the option to pause and restart the course as many times as you need, these are our most flexible training options.

Purchase today and start training immediately. You can download your verifiable food hygiene certificate immediately upon completion.

Our friendly customer support team is always happy to talk through your food hygiene training options. Why not give us a call on 01327 552136, email us at, or use the live chat feature on this website to speak to us during office hours. We’re here to help from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday.