Almost all respondents to a survey think that businesses should be required by law to display their food hygiene ratings, according to a recent report.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS), run by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and local authorities, provides information on standards of hygiene in businesses during an inspection.
Outlets are given a rating from 0 to 5. A 5 indicates that hygiene standards are very good and a 0 means urgent improvement is required. In England, businesses are asked to display their FHRS rating, however in Wales and Northern Ireland it is a legal requirement. Scotland has a different system.
The survey was conducted between November 2020 and January 2021. In total, 5,900 adults from 3,955 households across England, Wales and Northern Ireland took part.
A total of 87 percent of respondents reported they had heard of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme but only half of them said they knew a lot or a bit about it.
Of those that had heard about it, 95 percent thought that businesses should be required by law to display the food hygiene rating at their premises. The same amount thought that firms providing an online food service should display their rating where it can clearly be seen by customers before they order.
Respondents aged between 35 and 64 were more likely to have at least some knowledge of the FHRS than the youngest or oldest respondents. People responsible for cooking were more likely to report knowledge than those who do not cook.
Influence on behavior
Half of respondents had checked the food hygiene rating of a business in the past 12 months either at the premises or online. People in Wales and Northern Ireland did this more than those in England.
Younger respondents were more likely to have checked a food hygiene rating of a business than older adults as were full time students when compared to people in other occupational groups.
Most people said they would still eat at a restaurant or takeaway if they saw a food hygiene rating sticker with a score of 4 (good) or 3 (generally satisfactory). More than four in 10 would consider a rating of 4 as the lowest acceptable one and 43 percent said 3.
Eighty percent would not eat at a restaurant or takeaway with a rating of 2 (improvement necessary). This goes up to 94 and 95 percent for sites with a score of 1 (major improvement necessary) or 0.
A total of 61 percent of respondents would be less likely to eat at a business that did not have the food hygiene rating sticker at the entrance. In the past 12 months, 16 percent said they had decided against using an outlet because it did not display its hygiene rating.
The main concerns for consumers at firms that did not display their rating were that the business had a low food hygiene rating and was trying to hide it or it had poor hygiene standards. Other worries included whether the site had been inspected by authorities and a higher risk of food poisoning.
Meanwhile, another survey has analyzed consumer behaviors and attitudes including confidence in the food supply chain.
Data comes from various surveys commissioned by the FSA, via Ipsos MORI, from April 2020 until November 2021.
There is increasing concern about the quality of food produced in the UK. In November 2021, 35 percent of people reported feeling concerned compared to 26 percent in December 2020. A third are also worried about the safety of food made in the UK.
About half of people surveyed had concerns about the quality and safety of food imported from outside the UK.
Four in five participants are confident that the supply chain in the UK ensures that food is safe to eat.
Three quarters of those asked feel confident the FSA takes appropriate action if a food related risk is identified and can be relied upon to protect the public from such risks. Overall, 61 percent said they trust the FSA to do its job and only 5 percent did not trust the agency.
About one in five reported cutting down the size of or skipping meals because they could not afford to buy food. In November 2021, 11 percent said they were using food banks.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)