Wiltshire Council is to abandon the local system for rating establishments selling food in favour of a scheme administered by a national quango. The council was given £42,000 by the Food Standards Agency as a sweetener to make the switch.
The national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) will be run across the county from 1st April 2012.
This national scheme, developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), provides information on food hygiene standards to help people to choose where to eat out or shop for food.
Food outlets, such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs, are inspected by food safety officers from Wiltshire Council, to check that their hygiene standards meet legal requirements. The hygiene standards found at these inspections are rated on a scale ranging from zero (which means 'urgent improvement necessary') to a top rating of five ('very good').
The ratings will be on the FSA website at food.gov.uk/ratings and the food business will be given a sticker and certificate and encouraged to display these at the entrance to their premises.
Around one million people suffer from food poisoning every year, and the FSA's aim in developing the FHRS is to reduce this number. The ratings will give consumers a glimpse of what is going on in the kitchen when they eat out, or behind the scenes at the places they shop, before they make their decision about which place they prefer to visit.
Keith Humphries, portfolio holder for Public Health and Protection Services said; 'Although we have run our own successful food hygiene scheme, we have opted to change to the FHRS, as we can see the benefits for local food businesses and the people that eat or shop in them. Having a single scheme which is consistent nationwide means that the rating will have the same significance wherever people are buying food. The public will be able to use the information when deciding which food outlets to visit, and we hope that food companies will recognise that displaying a good hygiene rating is good for business.'
Catriona Stewart, Head of the Food Hygiene Ratings Team at the FSA said, 'We recognise the real progress that has been made in improving hygiene standards in food outlets through 'local' food hygiene rating schemes. But having a single nationwide scheme will mean a level playing field for businesses across the country, and consumers will be able to recognise and use the ratings in their own area, as well as further from home. So it's great news that Wiltshire Council has announced their (sic) intention to switch to the new national scheme'.