Key areas of focus to achieve a 5-star food hygiene rating

Good food hygiene practices – including protection against contamination and pest control – are essential in retail food and beverage sites. Food safety issues can seriously damage a business’ reputation and it is of course imperative that the food an outlet serves is safe for consumption.

The national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) has been applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2008. Previously, local councils around the country would use their own systems to judge and record food hygiene, but the introduction of the FHRS unified the recording and publishing of food standards in the UK, and its number one aim is to encourage and promote better food hygiene.

Today, all local authorities use the same FHRS system to give food-serving businesses a rating from 0 to 5. In Wales and Northern Ireland, it is mandatory for businesses to display their food hygiene rating and it is likely that this will be a requirement in England soon as well.

How Are Food Hygiene Ratings Worked Out?

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As zero is counted, there are six possible food hygiene ratings for food-serving businesses. These are as follows:

  • 0 – Urgent improvement necessary
  • 1 – Major improvement necessary
  • 2 – Improvement necessary
  • 3 – Generally satisfactory
  • 4 – Good
  • 5 – Very good

In order to award their ratings, Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) carry out food hygiene inspections according to the Food Law Code of Practice. They will pay close attention to three major elements during their inspections.

These are:

  1. Food hygiene compliance (i.e. how food is handled, prepared, cooked, reheated, cooled and stored)
  2. Structural compliance (i.e. the general cleanliness and condition of the building, its facilities, layout, lighting and ventilation)
  3. Confidence in management (i.e. what measures are taken – training, policies, procedures, management records, etc. – to maintain standards of hygiene)

All three of these elements are taken into consideration when food hygiene ratings are given. Businesses must be performing strongly in all areas in order to achieve the maximum 5-star rating.

Businesses that have poor scores have their premises inspected more frequently than those with high scores, as do those that have had complaints made about them.

What to Focus On to Achieve a 5-star Food Hygiene Rating

A five-star food hygiene rating can improve a food-serving business’s reputation no end – but what should you be focusing on to achieve it?

  1. A Managed Approach to Pest Control

All businesses that serve food need a thorough and fully-managed pest control system in place. Pests – including rodents, insects, birds and domestic animals – entering a food-serving establishment are a potential source of microbiological and physical hazards, and any signs of infestation will put pay to your five-star food hygiene rating immediately.

Having a solid and professional pest control contract in place is essential for ensuring that your premises is free from pests of all nature and regular pest control visits should be carried out in conjunction with strict housekeeping protocols. Regular and thorough cleaning is vital, with all areas meticulously swept, mopped, dusted and scrubbed. Any identified entry points must also be adequately sealed. Employing the services of a professional pest control company will ensure that you’re taking all the appropriate pest control measures.

  1. Well-maintained Food Storage Systems

Raw foods must never be stored next to ready-to-eat foods. Importantly, however, in addition to raw fish and meat, unwashed and raw vegetables are also classed as raw, as they can also be contaminated with E.coli and other bacteria.

Your storage system must ensure that raw foods and ready-to-eat foods are kept completely separated across your whole premises so as to keep the potential of cross-contamination during storage to an absolute minimum.

Some businesses will have a dedicated food storage area away from the food preparation area. These must be kept thoroughly clean with a keen eye on pest control. Storing food on racks instead of on the floor will help you achieve your five-star rating and particular attention should be paid to your delivery area. Many deliveries are made early in the morning, before any staff are on-site. Again, providing racks or shelving for delivery workers to use will keep your food off the ground and ensuring that your area is covered will help prevent birds from pecking at or defecating on the delivery.

  1. Prevention of Cross Contamination in Food Preparation

It’s also important to take measures to ensure that cross contamination does not occur during the preparation process.

When it comes to washing foods, the ideal situation is to have separate sinks for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods and another sink for the dishes. This isn’t always feasible in some establishments, however. If so, a plan must be made that includes separate time slots for dishwashing and food preparation, with sinks fully sanitised after use and all procedures documented.

If possible, you should also split your kitchen or food preparation area into separate sections for raw and ready-to-eat foods, as this will greatly reduce the risk of cross-contamination. If space does not permit, then you should plan your days to keep raw and ready-to-eat food preparation completely separate, with all areas, surfaces and utensils thoroughly sanitised between activities.

  1. Personal Hygiene and Staff Training

A five-star food hygiene rating will always be difficult to attain if your staff are not provided with adequate training to ensure that they know what is expected of them and understand why.

Training will ensure that your staff know the importance of clean and protective clothing, that they should keep hair tied back with a suitable head covering when preparing food, not wear watches or other jewellery and the best practices for hand washing.

It will also ensure that they understand safe systems of work, appropriate chemical use and safety procedures when handling heavy goods. Pest control training should also be provided so your staff know exactly how to keep the potential of infestation down to a minimum and the signs of pests being present to look out for.

  1. Record Keeping

In order for a five-star rating to be achieved, records of all of the above activities must be kept up-to-date.

In addition, a food safety policy must be documented and daily check sheets for fridge/freezer temperatures, food temperatures, cleaning and risk assessments must be maintained along with staff training files.

Any gaps in this documentation will bring your policies and procedures into question, which will immediately deduct points for confidence in management, so it’s of vital importance that you keep your records up-to-date.

Professional Pest Control with Safeguard

Pest control is of paramount importance to any food-serving business looking to achieve a 5-star food hygiene rating. Contracting a professional pest control company will help you meet all three standards during Environmental Health Officer inspections.

If you’re looking for a professional and quality pest control solution for your business, Safeguard has over 30 years’ experience in designing bespoke pest control strategies for commercial clients. Please get in touch today.

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