The Isle of Man is considering introducing a food hygiene ratings system.

A comment period has been opened seeking views from the public, food business operators, and those working in industry on the proposal, which includes display of food hygiene ratings on premises, websites and social media platforms. Comments must be submitted by Nov. 26.

Introducing a Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) in the Isle of Man would contribute to maintaining alignment with the United Kingdom on food safety and standards. This is essential for continued growth of the island’s food industry and trade with the UK and European Union, according to the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.

Public and business benefit
The UK FHRS was launched in 2010. Restaurants, takeaways, cafes, pubs, hotels, schools and other places where people eat or buy food are given a hygiene rating of between 0 for urgent improvement necessary and 5 for very good.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, businesses are legally required to display their food hygiene rating on the premises door or window. England is considering making that a mandatory requirement. In Scotland, firms do not have to display their Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS) rating of “Pass” or “Improvement Required.”

The FHRS is designed so that businesses of any size can achieve the top rating by meeting legal requirements. It can also allow enforcement team resources to be directed to poorly performing companies.

“A FHRS is a key public health measure and an important commercial driver for businesses to achieve and maintain compliance with existing food hygiene law. It provides transparency to consumers about the hygiene standards in food outlets at the time of inspection and allows consumers to make informed choices about where they eat out or shop for food,” according to the consultation brief.

Introducing an FHRS in the Isle of Man would require new legislation a public comment period planned for late 2020 or early 2021. Current rules are the Food Hygiene Regulations of 2007.

Movement on mandatory display in England
In England, consumer group Which?, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, and the Local Government Association have said in the past they are in favor of a mandatory system. The Food Standards Agency also wants it, but this involves primary legislation and government approval is needed.

This past week there was a debate in the House of Lords on the estimated cost to the taxpayer of requiring businesses in England to display the food hygiene rating score at the entrance to premises

James Bethell, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care and a Conservative Peer, said there would be some “minimal” cost to the taxpayer but “significant benefit” in terms of improved food safety.

Bethell said he could not commit to a date for mandatory display but there was “warmth” toward the idea and that there will be “decisions and movement” in the near future.

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