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LGA - Councils: displaying food hygiene ratings must be made mandatory after Brexit

All food premises in England should be forced to display ‘Scores on the Doors’ ratings when EU laws governing food safety are converted into UK law after Brexit to improve hygiene standards and protect people from harm, the LGA has urged.

Council environmental health teams score food outlets from zero to five based on factors such as kitchen cleanliness, cooking methods and food management.

Businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their rating. However, in England, businesses do not have to display the rating they have been awarded, with those scoring low marks much less likely to put them on show to customers.

The Government has set out its intention to convert EU law into UK law on the day we leave the European Union. With EU laws impacting many of the council services that affect people's day-to-day lives, the LGA said councils must play a central role in deciding whether to keep, amend or scrap them.

Local government leaders say current EU laws regulating food safety - vital to improve standards and reduce the risk to people of eating unsafe food cooked in dirty kitchens – are good and need to be kept after Brexit.

But the LGA wants the Government to see Brexit as an opportunity to strengthen these food safety laws and empower councils by legally extending the mandatory display of ‘Scores on the Doors’ to England. This would not only improve consumer confidence and raise standards, but also reduce the need for, and therefore cost of, enforcement action by councils.

The LGA believes that businesses - including restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, sandwich shops, supermarkets and delicatessens – that fail to comply should be fined or prosecuted.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“The conversion of EU law as part of Brexit will impact on many council services that affect people’s day-to-day lives, including how to protect people from being served unsafe food.

“The post-Brexit review of EU laws gives the Government choices. We believe that food hygiene laws need to be strengthened, where necessary, with ‘Scores on the Doors’ ratings being a good area of opportunity to do this.

“With mandatory hygiene rating display already in force in Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK leaving the EU provides a crucial opportunity to toughen up food safety laws by extending the legislation to England as well. Food hygiene standards and compliance levels have risen since the scheme was introduced in Wales.

“The lack of a hygiene rating sticker in a business means customers are left in the dark on official kitchen cleanliness levels when eating or buying food there.

“A food hygiene rating distinguishes between appearance and reality. A food outlet may have nice décor but that doesn’t mean that hygiene standards are good enough to avoid being served a ‘dodgy’ burger or salad that could pose a serious risk to someone’s health.

“Councils have seen some shocking examples of poor or dangerous hygiene and always take action to improve standards at rogue food premises.

“Making the display of hygiene ratings compulsory in England is good for business. Not only would it incentivise food outlets to improve or maintain high hygiene standards - which would reduce the risk of illness for customers - it would also improve consumer confidence and save taxpayers’ money by reducing the need for, and cost of, enforcement action by councils.”

Case studies

  • In a prosecution brought by Hillingdon Council, a West London fast food restaurant and its director were ordered to pay £19,518 after mouse droppings were found in the food preparation area, staff were not washing their hands before touching customers’ food and food was left in freezers that were not switched on. The restaurant had been given a zero food hygiene rating but had repeatedly ignored warnings to improve cleanliness standards.
     
  • A Merseyside restaurant was prosecuted by Sefton Council after health inspectors found dead flies in pans of bolognese, bird faeces in an extractor fan and out-of-date lasagne, and a large dead insect in a trifle. There was also no disinfectant product on the premises. The owner was fined £750.
     
  • Following a prosecution by Waltham Forest Council, the owner of a Chinese restaurant was banned from operating a business for life and ordered to pay £11,576 after it was found to be infested with cockroaches. Shelving that contained food was also contaminated with mice droppings and urine, and there was a foul odour of rotting food.
     
  • In a prosecution by Harrow Council, the owner of a vermin-infested fast food shop received a lifetime ban on running a food business and was ordered to pay £24,905 after food hygiene inspectors found rodent droppings all over the premises, including on rotting cucumbers and tomatoes, and in food storage, preparation and serving areas. The shop was so filthy that even its food safety guide was found covered in dirt on the floor.

In a separate prosecution by the council, the owner of a “cash and carry” was fined £4,550 after bite marks, excrement and urine was found on chocolate bars on sale due to a rat infestation.

  • The owners of an Essex pub and one of its directors were ordered to pay a total of £43,358 after rats were found nesting under the fridge in its kitchen, following a prosecution by Chelmsford City Council. The pub was shut down and one of the directors banned indefinitely from managing any food business.
  • The owner of a kebab takeaway was ordered to pay £3,550 at court after officers at South Oxfordshire District Council found that a food storage building was infested by rats and covered in dirt and rat droppings.

Notes to editors

  1. Mandatory display of food hygiene ratings is supported by The Food Standards Agency, consumer organisation Which? and the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health.
     
  2. The food hygiene rating scheme applies to restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, hotels, supermarkets, sandwich shops, bakeries, delicatessens and other premises selling food.
     
  3. The hygiene rating covers how hygienically the food is handled and stored, the condition and cleanliness of the building and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.
     
  4. Under the food hygiene rating scheme, a business is given one of the six hygiene ratings from 0-5 as follows: 5 (very good); 4 (good); 3 (generally satisfactory); 2 (improvement necessary); 1 (major improvement necessary); 0 (urgent improvement necessary).
     
  5. Since the scheme was introduced in Wales in 2013, food hygiene standards have risen, according to the Food Standards Agency. More than 95 per cent of food businesses in Wales now have a rating of 3 (generally satisfactory) or higher. Broad compliance levels have risen from 91.8 per cent in 2013/14 and 94.3 per cent in 2014/15 to 91 per cent in 2015/16.
     
  6. According to a survey carried out for the FSA in 2012, just 43 per cent of restaurants and other food businesses in England put up a score, and only 32 per cent in London. For businesses with a low rating – between 0 and 2 – the figure dropped to 12 per cent across England and 9 per cent in London.
     
  7. Environmental health officers can serve enforcement notices, prosecute and close food establishments where conditions are found to be poor.
     
  8. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill - which will convert the entire body of EU law into UK law – began its second reading in the House of Commons on 7 September 2017 and continued to be debated on 11 September 2017. The vast majority of UK food law is derived from European regulations.
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