The bill, which is designed to provide consumers with more information and raise food hygiene practices among businesses, is the first compulsory scheme to be introduced in the UK. As with the current voluntary scheme, businesses will be required to display their food hygiene ratings system (FHRS) scores in a prominent position, for example at the entrance of the premises, and the legislation is also extends to businesses that supply food to other businesses.
Fixed cost fines of £200 will be imposed on businesses that fail to comply, and there is also provision for prosecution, with a maximum fine of £1,000.
There is also a new duty on food businesses to verbally inform customers of the food hygiene rating for their establishment if requested, and an associated offence if they refuse to do so. This will allow people with impaired vision or enquiring by telephone to establish the hygiene rating of an establishment prior to use.
Inspection frequency will be based on an assessment of risk to the consumer, such as the type of food business, the nature of the food and the size of the business, but there will be a right of appeal against scores that businesses feel are unfair and they can request and pay for a reinspection if improvements have been made.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “The Bill will introduce a simple, but effective public health measure that will empower consumers and help to improve food hygiene standards.
“Food hygiene is essential for the protection of public health. The rating scheme will help drive up standards and benefit both consumers and businesses.
“The scheme will enable consumers to make a more informed choice about where they choose to eat or shop for food, while good food hygiene means a higher rating, which is good for business.”
At its board meeting last week, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) discussed extending the voluntary scheme currently in place and making it mandatory across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Chairman Jeff Rooker said that a “mandatory approach will strengthen the schemes and health protection” and that the FSA would talk to other government departments about future mandation.