Your food hygiene rating has a huge impact, and a bad inspection can turn away customers in their droves. On the other hand, an excellent rating is a selling point and displaying the result of your check on a window or your door will encourage trust and get customers walking in.
What if You Think Your Rating is Unfair?
Marcus Wareing’s Berkeley Hotel restaurant has two Michelin stars. For a brief time, it was also the restaurant which played host to a much less prestigious award: the one-star food hygiene rating. Visiting health inspectors provided the London establishment with a low score on the basis of only having one vacuum packing machine. Environmental Health Officers soon reverted the rating decision to 5 following a re-visit to the establishment.
On occasion, a food hygiene rating is unfair, and you can appeal it. After your inspection, you will receive a formal written assessment explaining why you received that rating, and after this, you can appeal the award if you feel it is unfounded. This article will explain the appeal process and clarify how you can organise a re-visit.
What do Food Hygiene Ratings Mean?
Food hygiene ratings are grades that EHO’s give to food handling businesses. The scores range from 0-5 (with 5 being the highest). After inspecting a business, an officer assesses how well the food handlers and premises comply with food safety law and provides the appropriate grade. When an EHO has given a food handler a rating, it comes with a number and a description of what that number means, for example, a 3 rating means that the business is ‘generally satisfactory’. There are 6 types of food hygiene rating:
0 – Urgent Improvement Necessary
1 – Major Improvement Necessary
2 – Improvement Necessary
3 – Generally Satisfactory
4 – Good
5 – Very Good
The food hygiene ratings are calculated based on three main criteria:
- How hygienically food handlers prepare, store, cook, re-heat, and cool food.
- The condition and structure of the buildings, e.g. the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, and other facilities.
- How the business manages and records food safety measures.
How to Appeal a Food Hygiene Rating
Business owners wishing to appeal against a food hygiene rating can go through an appeal process. The Food Standards Agency advises that your first port of call should be to informally contact the Environmental Health Officer who carried out the inspection. You are given their contact details when you receive notification about the rating. Getting in touch with the Officer who gave you the score gives you the opportunity to understand the reasons behind the rating you received, so you can make a judgement about whether you wish to appeal.
If you still disagree with the rating, then you can make the appeal, by completing a form or by sending a letter or email to your local authority’s Lead Officer for Food.
It is important to note that you must make your appeal within 14 days of receiving the food hygiene rating. Failure to do this will see your food hygiene rating published on the FSA rating website.
The Appeal Process
When the FSA reviews your appeal, the FSA website will publicise your food hygiene rating as ‘awaiting publication’. In the meantime, the Lead Officer will conduct an investigation into your case. The Officer who gave your business the first rating will not be involved in this review. The Local Authority will settle the examination within seven days of lodging the appeal, and the FSA will publish your food rating pending the result of the appeal.
If you still aren’t happy with the decision, then you have the right to go to a judicial review. However, if you choose to go ahead, the FSA will still publish your rating online on the FSA website. If you feel that your Local Authority has behaved incorrectly during the process, you can also contact your Local Government Ombudsman through your Local Authority.
In England, businesses can appeal to the FSA Independent Business Appeals Panel if they have reasonable grounds for an appeal. The FSA Independent Business Appeals Panel considers complaints or appeals against the advice given by local authorities. They’ll do this if you think that the advice they have given you is incorrect or unreasonable. To find out if your appeal is reasonable, you can contact your relevant trade association forum or look at government guidance on the business and industry section of the FSA website.
The food hygiene rating scheme also gives businesses the ability to have their say. Businesses can do this through the right-to-reply.
A right-to-reply allows businesses to explain to customers why they received a low rating and how they plan to address this. You can submit a right-to-reply at any time, and you should submit comments to the Officer who performed the inspection.
The FSA will submit your right to reply in full except for any offensive or personal remarks and it will remain on the website until you receive a new rating.
Requesting a Re-Visit
All businesses have the right to request a re-visit when required changes have been carried out to a satisfactory level.
To request a re-visit, you must contact the Officer who carried out your inspection. Businesses must make the request in writing and display specific evidence to show that you need a re-visit. There’s no deadline for this, only when you feel that the changes have been made. Notably, any re-visit usually does not occur within 3 months, unless the changes made were structural or to equipment. You will not be given a specific time for the re-visit, the Officers will arrive unannounced.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with an understanding of dealing with Food Safety Ratings. If you’d like more training on food hygiene and safety, The Training Terminal offers an array of courses www.thetrainingterminal.com.