It is very important that all food businesses obey the law and supply food that is safe to eat. Consumers in certain areas can already see how well a food business in their area complies with food hygiene regulations through 'scores on the doors' schemes run by their local authority.
The Food Standards Agency is planning to introduce a national scheme so that consumers across the UK can obtain information on businesses in their areas.
The primary purpose of these 'scores on the doors' schemes is to empower consumers so that they make more informed choices about the places from which they purchase food.
Local authority enforcement officers are responsible for inspecting food businesses to ensure that they meet the legal requirements on food hygiene. Under the 'scores on the doors' scheme, each food outlet is given a score that reflects the inspection findings and may display this at the point of sale. The score is also available via a website where consumers can see the scores for all the businesses in the local area.
Experience with these schemes suggests that as well as providing information to consumers, they can encourage businesses to raise their hygiene standards.
The Food standards Agency has supported a number of local authorities across the UK to participate in a variety of pilot schemes. Some other local authorities have also introduced schemes independently of the Agency in response to local needs.
To get a broad consistency between local schemes, the following 'principles' were jointly adopted by the Food Standards Agency and the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS). These provide a framework for the development of new 'scores on the doors' schemes and the operation of existing schemes:
Businesses and consumers should be consulted on the details of the scheme before it is launched.
Local authorities should bear in mind that schemes are generally based on food hygiene and safety procedures, structure and confidence in management elements of the Code of Practice.
Scoring systems should be open, transparent and simple to understand, and accurately reflect the standards of compliance within the business.
Clear explanation of scoring schemes and associated bandings should be provided to members of the public.
Every effort should be made to ensure scoring within a particular scheme is as consistent as possible.
A mechanism should be put in place to inform businesses about the relevant complaints procedures.
Local authorities should actively seek to obtain business co-operation in displaying score certificates on the premises.
There should be an ongoing commitment to keep the public informed about the general outcomes of the scheme.