The scheme runs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by local authorities in partnership with the Food Standards Agency. Local authorities are responsible for carrying out inspections of food businesses to check that they meet the requirements of food hygiene law. They give businesses food hygiene ratings based on the findings of inspections and then publish this information on the Food Standards Agency's website. The Food Standards Agency is the UK government department responsible for food safety. It gives local authorities advice, training, and other support to help them run the scheme.
A food safety officer inspects a business to check that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law. The officer is from the local authority where the business is located.
At the inspection, the officer will check:
- How hygienically the food is handled - how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
- The condition of the structure of the buildings - the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
- How the business manages what it does to make sure food is safe and so that the officer can be confident standards will be maintained in the future
Each of these three elements is essential for making sure that food hygiene standards meet requirements and the food served or sold to you is safe to eat.
The hygiene standards found at the time of inspection are then rated on a scale. At the bottom of the scale is '0' - this means urgent improvement is required. At the top of the scale is '5' - this means the hygiene standards are very good.
If the top rating is not given, the officer will explain to the person who owns or manages the business what improvements need to be made and what action they can take to improve their hygiene rating.