Food Hygiene Rating FAQs

Here's the answers to some common questions people have around Food Hygiene Ratings.

The information relates to the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme in England. It is also applicable to Wales and Northern Ireland.

There's also some information about the Food Hygiene Information Scheme in Scotland.

What is the range of food hygiene ratings in the UK?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, businesses receive a rating on a scale from 0 to 5. A rating of 5 is the highest rating that a business can achieve. This means that their hygiene standards are 'very good'.

A rating of 0 is at the lowest end of the scale. It means that 'urgent improvement is required'.

What is the minimum food hygiene rating?

The minimum food hygiene rating is zero. To get a zero, a business will have failures across all three of the following categories:

  • Food hygiene and safety procedures - How hygienically a business handles food. This includes the preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage of food.
  • Structural requirements - The physical condition of the business.
  • Confidence in management - How the business keeps food safe. This includes the processes, systems and training a business has in place.

Often, in zero-rated establishments, inspectors may witness cross-contamination. There may also be evidence of pest infestations and lack of hand-washing.

If a business is an imminent risk to public health, officers have the authority to close it down. Officers can close down part or even the entire business.

How often are food hygiene ratings done?

Businesses that pose the highest risk may receive an inspection every six months. Low risk businesses may only receive an inspection every two years.

The time between inspections may exceed two years for very low risk businesses.

The frequency of inspections varies depending on the potential risk to public health.

Officers can inspect a business at any time and they are not announced.

This is especially the case if officers sense that hygiene standards have deteriorated.

Do you have to display food hygiene ratings?

In England, it is not a legal requirement to display food hygiene ratings.

But, it is a legal requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland.

It became mandatory to display the rating in Wales in November 2013. In Northern Ireland, it became mandatory in October 2016.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, businesses must display their rating somewhere prominent. Examples include:

  • Front door
  • Entrance
  • Window of the premises

If a business in England doesn't display their rating, you can still find their rating.

You can do so either on this website or on the Food Standards Agency website.

Is it mandatory to display food hygiene ratings in Scotland?

No, it is not mandatory and some food outlets may choose not to display their rating on their premises.

But, you can find out a business' rating on the Food Standards Scotland website and on this website.

What premises are exempt from the food hygiene rating scheme?

Businesses that don't supply food directly to consumers are 'exempt'. Other 'low risk' businesses are also 'exempt' from the scheme.

These 'low risk' businesses must only sell pre-packed, low-risk food.

Low risk food include biscuits, health foods, confectionery and hot drinks etc.

Low risk businesses include:

  • Newsagents
  • Visitor centres
  • Chemist shops
  • Leisure centres
  • Childminders
  • Businesses offer caring services at home
  • Village halls

Businesses that are 'exempt' don't receive a hygiene rating. But they do receive a visit by the local authority.

The Food Standards Agency website lists the name of the business. But there will also be an indicator to show that the business is exempt.

Do you have to pay for a food hygiene rating?

Food businesses need to register with their local authority. Then once registered, they may receive an inspection. There is no cost for this.

Some local authorities in England charge a fee for a re-visit inspection.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, all local authorities charge a fee for a re-visit.

Can a business improve their hygiene rating?

Businesses receive a new rating after each inspection by the local authority.

If hygiene standards have improved, the business may then receive an improved rating.

The frequency of inspections depends on the potential risk to public health.

Businesses can also request a re-visit inspection.

Can a business make an appeal about their rating?

Yes, businesses can appeal in writing to their local authority. They can do so by filling out a form and sending it to the local authority.

The form is downloadable from the Food Standards Agency website.

But, businesses should contact their local authority officer in the first instance. This will help them understand why they received a particular hygiene rating.


Food Standards Agency

Food Standards Scotland