Just before the 2012 Summer Olympics, restaurants in London are publicly posting their inspection ratings for the first time.

It’s not an A-to-F letter grade like those now seen in many locations in the United States including New York City. Instead, England is using the 1-to-5 scale of its Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS).

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the United Kingdom and local health authorities in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland began rolling out the Food Hygiene Ratings last month.

After inspections by local food safety officers, each food and beverage establishment will be encouraged to publicly post the hygiene rating it achieves, from 0 at the bottom (which means the establishment requires “urgent improvement”) to 5 at the top (very good).

“I am pleased that most of the London boroughs are joining the Food Hygiene Rating System, especially with the influx of visitors for the start of the games later this month,” says FSA Chairman Jeff Rooker.

“People living, working or holidaying in London will be able to use the scheme in the knowledge that the same standards have been used to judge good hygiene in all the boroughs and across the country,” adds Rooker. “Telling consumers about hygiene standards in food outlets gives them greater choice and power to vote with their feet–they are able to choose to east at places with the highest standards and avoid those that don’t make the grade.”

Food Hygiene Ratings were first introduced in 24 local areas of Northern Ireland with all district councils planning to join the program by year’s end. Before summer is over, ratings should appear at about 14,000 cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and delis in North Ireland.

“Would be diners can now check out Food Hygiene Ratings online and they can also look out for the scheme’s green and black stickers and certificates that food business are proudly displaying on their premises, not just in Northern Ireland, but also throughout England and Wales,” says Gerry McCurdy, FSA’s director for Northern Ireland.

Under the system being introduced this summer, food businesses are not legally required to post their score, but more than half have been posting them and scores for all inspections are available on line.

New York City’s letter grade inspection system includes mandatory posting.  The New York City Health Department imposed the mandatory posting rule in June 2010, but it did not go into effect until the following year.

Still by early 2012, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg credited the posting of letter grades by the city’s 24,000 restaurants for improvement in Salmonella rates not experienced by surrounding states.

Letter grades were used in restaurant inspections in the U.S. long before New York City made such programs trendy. Numerous jurisdictions have added food trucks to their letter grade inspection systems.

The UK’s food hygiene rating scheme apparently won’t be seen in Scotland anytime soon.  Scotland is breaking off from the FSA and setting up its own independent agency.

  • FSAFHRShollycow

    The FSA FHRS comparability is subjective, not objective. The comparability nationwide, a ‘sales pitch’ by the FSA needs to be substantiated by independent audit. The four safeguards for businesses do not exist as there is no third party review. The right to reply can be edited by the assessor, the right of appeal is to another colleague within the team of the assessor. In a small local authority, the team can consist of two or three persons. The right of a revisit might be in six months but might be longer, thereby untold harm can be affected on businesses. The right to a judicial review would be so costly, in reality is not a safeguard. Where there is no third party review, there is no accountability. Where there is no accountability, the system is not secure or safe.
    The New York system is only comparable within New York, not the whole of USA.
    The Los Angeles system has a third party review system in place in the form of an independent ombudsman. It does not claim to be consistent with the New York rating system.
    The Auckland system is only relative to Auckland, not the whole of New Zealand.
    The FSA FHRS in UK, allows manipulations by assessors to apply individual subjective prejudice in their awarding of the ratings. The lack of third party review and the lack of true safeguards means that businesses can be subjected to unfair and unjust subjective assessments.