The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board has approved a new six-tier 'scores on the doors' scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, following vigorous debate at its board meeting earlier this week.
Scotland will continue with the two-tier pass or improvement required system it has lobbied for.
The hygiene rating scheme will have six levels representing the different standards of food hygiene found by the local authority officials when they undertake a hygiene inspection. The aim is that all ratings will be prominently displayed at the business premises. A decision will be made on what symbols should be used to represent these tiers following further consumer research.
During yesterday's discussions, in addition to the adoption of a six-tier scheme, it was agreed that the scope of the scheme will cover all businesses that supply food directly to consumers, so this will include supermarkets, restaurants, cafés and takeaways. Displaying scores will be voluntary, but they should be in a prominent position, so that consumers can easily see them, the FSA said.
The British Retail Consortium has opposed the inclusion of its members in the scheme.
The FSA also announced that a a new UK steering group will be set up to manage the migration towards this national scheme.
Sarah Appleby, head of enforcement at the FSA, said: "Consumers and many local authorities have told us that they support systems that show a range of hygiene standards. Some businesses who responded to our consultation also supported a progressive scale, but most had concerns about this approach.
"Now that the Board has decided to move towards a six-tier scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the new steering group will be working to ensure that the scheme will be clear, robust and easy to use for both businesses and consumers.
"We want this scheme to help people to make informed choices about where they eat, be a catalyst for businesses to drive up standards and help make eating out as safe as it can be."
Between May and August this year, the FSA consulted on a proposal for a national scheme. A total of 414 responses were received across the UK, with approximately 52% from industry, 45% from enforcement bodies such as local authorities, and 4% from consumer organisations.