Displaying your company’s Food Hygiene Rating in the UK is voluntary (it’s law in Wales and NI) but food premises must be inspected on an annual basis to ensure hygiene levels are up to scratch. There are some food sellers out there that are faking the rating, which is not only lying to consumers, but potentially posing a significant health risk to anyone who eats at these establishments.
BBC 1’s Fake Britain (Series 8, episode 5) shown first on Wednesday 18th July 2018, went into depth about the worrying trend of some UK businesses faking their food hygiene rating, just to get customers in the door.
Although it’s not a legal requirement in the UK to display a food hygiene rating sticker or certificate, putting up a fake one is a criminal offence.
Food hygiene is important from farm to fork, not just for whoever is eating the food, but also for the manufacturers and businesses making and selling the food. Bacterial contamination can cause serious illness in consumers and can become a potential PR and/or financial nightmare for the companies involved.
Taking simple steps can help to increase a food hygiene rating, starting with an HACCP plan. This is a recommended management system where businesses identify possible food safety risks when preparing and handling food.
The 7 HACCP principles are:
- Perform a hazard analysis
- Decide on the critical control points (CCP)
- Determine critical limits
- Establish procedures to monitor CCPs
- Establish corrective actions
- Establish verification procedures
- Establish a record keeping system
Basic HACCP plans include various procedures, from ensuring that everything is dated once opened (likely also with a date for when the product should be thrown away/used by) to keeping the fridge temperature below 5˚C and the freezers below -18˚C.
It’s important to chill and defrost food properly to slow down bacterial growth and keep them fresh for longer. Generally, the lower the temperature, the slower the bacteria will grow. Unfortunately, cold temperatures don’t stop bacteria from growing altogether, particularly with resilient bacteria, such as Listeria Monocytogenes.
Bacteria will grow in what is known as the ‘Danger Zone’, which is a temperature range of between 8˚C and 63˚C. This is because these are optimal conditions for bacteria to grow and replicate. Most bacteria will be ‘killed’ at high temperatures (over 63˚C) but standard advice is to cook food until it has reached 70˚C and has stayed there for at least 2 minutes, or 80˚C for 6 seconds.
Alongside a good HACCP plan, using high quality cleaning equipment, employing colour-coded organisation and good cleaning practices are key to avoiding cross-contamination and working towards a 5-star food hygiene rating.
Have you ever been affected by a low food hygiene rating or do you suspect somewhere you know or have eaten is lying about its rating? You can contact your local food safety team here.
Search for a food hygiene rating for your favourite restaurant online here.
All facts and figures found on the FSA website (https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-hygiene-rating-scheme) and the BBC iPlayer programme, Fake Britain (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bc2jgm/fake-britain-series-8-30-minute-reversions-episode-5).