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Is your favourite restaurant a five or a zero?

Love it or loathe it, the festive season will soon be upon us (yep! Less than seven weeks to go!). That said, you might be thinking of booking a table at restaurant for a Christmas meal with family, friends or work colleagues.

Restaurants will really go to town to make the most of the period leading up to Christmas, with tempting menus printed in a glossy brochures and wonderful decorations – and that’s great. Everyone wants to feel ‘Christmassy’ when they’re tucking into their dinner.

But before you get swept along by the festive tide – buyer beware. The front of house might look inviting, but it’s what’s going on in the kitchen that you really need to focus on. You don’t want a good evening to be ruined by a bout of food poisoning in the next day or so.

Food Hygiene Rating Scheme tells you if a restaurant, cafe or takeaway cuts the mustard

It’s unlikely that proprietors and chefs will take kindly to an impromptu inspection of the kitchen facilities during a busy service period  – leave that to the likes of Gordon Ramsay or the Environmental Health Officer. However, there is an easy way to check whether things are up to standard behind closed doors, and that’s to look at their Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. This scheme, formerly known as ‘Scores on the Doors’ gives anywhere serving food a rating from zero to five, according to their food hygiene practices. A score of five is ‘very good’ whereas a score of zero means ‘urgent improvement needed.’

FHRSHow businesses are scored

The rating is based on an inspection which determines:

  • 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 and records what it does to make sure food is safe

Most businesses scoring 4 or 5 are proud of their rating and display a green sticker in the window to make customers and passers-by aware of their commitment to food safety. Unsurprisingly those whose ratings are low don’t publicise the fact.

Nevertheless,  it’s easy to find out how a particular restaurant, cafe or establishment selling food scored. All you have to do is visit http://ratings.food.gov.uk/ and tap in the name of the business and the area, and it will tell you. You might well be surprised at some of the results!

In Wales it is compulsory for businesses to display their ratings and it will soon be the case in Northern Ireland too. It’s looking likely that England might follow suit in the next few years. Let’s hope so – in our opinion, schemes like this can only be good news for driving up food safety standards.