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Food Hygiene Rating Scheme - Business Guidance

What is the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme?

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is a local authority/Food Standards Agency partnership initiative. The scheme provides consumers with information about hygiene standards in food premises at the time they are inspected by local authority Food Safety Officers to check compliance with legal requirements.

The food hygiene rating given reflects the inspection findings. The purpose is to allow consumers to make informed choices about the places where they eat out or shop for food thereby encouraging businesses to improve their hygiene standards.

In order to ensure that the scheme is fair to businesses, it has been designed to include a number of safeguards.

These are:  

  • an 'appeal' within 21 days if the business does not agree with their rating

  • a 'right to reply' which allows businesses to feedback relevant comments to be posted on the Food Standards Agency website

  • an 'opportunity to request a re-visit' and re-score when improvements have been made. A re-visit for re-scoring purposes will not normally be carried out within 3 months of the original inspection.

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What is the 'appeals' process?

Following a hygiene inspection of your premises by a Food Safety Officer you will be advised of your Food Hygiene Rating in writing. You should receive this within 14 days, which includes weekends and public holidays.

If you think that the rating is wrong or unfair, i.e. it does not reflect the hygiene standards at the time of inspection,  you can appeal against this.

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What should I do if I want to appeal my food hygiene rating? 

It is a good idea to speak informally to the person who carried out the inspection of your premises. You will be given the contact details for this officer when you are notified about your rating. You will be able to discuss how your rating was worked out and to see if you can resolve the matter without having to appeal.

Following that, if you still think the rating given is wrong, or unfair, you can lodge an appeal. To do this, you should complete the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Appeal Form and send to Environmental & Consumer Protection Services, New Fields Business Park, 1/2 Stinsford Road, Poole, BH17 0NF, or attach it to an email.

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How long do I have to appeal?

You must lodge your appeal within 21 days (this includes weekends and public holidays) of being notified of your food hygiene rating. You will be told the deadline for appealing when you are notified about your rating.

If you do not appeal within this time, we will publish your food hygiene rating online at www.food.gov.uk/ratings.

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What happens next and when will I know the result?

If you lodge an appeal, www.food.gov.uk/ratings will show that your food hygiene rating is ‘awaiting publication’.

Our Lead Officer for Food, or his/her deputy will review your case. In some circumstances a further visit to your premises may be required. You will be notified of the result within a maximum of 21 days from the date that the appeal was lodged, and your hygiene rating will then be published online at www.food.gov.uk/ratings

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What if I don’t agree with the outcome of the appeal?

You can raise the matter through our Borough of Poole Complaints Procedure, and/or challenge our decision by judicial review.

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What is the ‘right to reply’?

This lets you explain to potential customers any actions that you have taken after your inspection to improve hygiene standards at your premises. You can also state whether there were unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection that might have affected your food hygiene rating. 

It is not an opportunity to complain, or criticise, the food hygiene rating scheme, or your Food Safety Officer.

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What is the purpose of the ‘right to reply’?

You should send your comments in writing, or by email, to the Food Safety Officer that undertook the inspection of your premises. You will be given the contact details for the officer when you are notified about your rating. To do this, you should use the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme ‘Right to Reply’ form.

We may edit your comments in order to remove any offensive, defamatory, clearly inaccurate, or irrelevant remarks. Other than that, what you say in your ‘right to reply’ will be published online, together with your hygiene rating at www.food.gov.uk/ratings.

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How long do I have to submit my comments? 

There is no deadline for this so you can submit your 'right to reply' at any time up until your next inspection when you will get a new food hygiene rating.

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Can I request a 're-visit' to improve my Food Hygiene Rating?

You will automatically be given a new food hygiene rating each time we inspect your  premises. The frequency of these planned inspections depends on the risk to people’s health. The greater the risk, the more often you will be inspected.

If you make the improvement to hygiene standards that our Food Safety Officer told you about at your last planned inspection you can request a re-visit before the next planned inspection. This is so that the hygiene standards in your premises can be reassessed with a view to giving you a new and higher food hygiene rating.

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Is there a fee for a re-visit?

Although the 'national scheme' administered by our partner, the Food Standards Agency, does not charge a fee for 're-visits', we are adopting a charging policy where a business requests a re-visit for re-scoring purposes. 

This will only apply when, from a food safety point of view, we would not otherwise be carrying out such a visit. 

For example: Where a business rated as 4 “Good” requests a re-visit with a view to scoring a rating of 5 “Very Good” a charge will normally be applied. This is to ensure that we are able to focus our resources on improving those businesses which pose a food safety risk.   

The current charge is £71 per visit. 

If a charge is to be made the business will be notified in advance.

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Is there anything I should do before making a request for a re-visit? 

You are recommended to look carefully at the comments that the Food Safety Officer made about the hygiene standards found at your last inspection. These comments will be found in the report, or letter, that you were given. Ensure that you have taken appropriate action to address any issues raised.

You can discuss anything you are unsure about with your Food Safety Officer, or ask for further help on how to make improvements. 

This is important because you can only have one re-visit between our planned inspections of your premises. We will be looking at standards generally – not just at the specific areas you have been working to improve – so your hygiene rating could well go down and not up and you will not be able to get a new rating until your next planned inspection which may not be for some time.

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What should I do if I want to request a re-visit? 

You should put your request in writing, by letter or email. To do this, you should use the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme re-visit request form.

You must explain what actions you have taken on the issues raised at your last inspection. You should include supporting evidence, for example, receipts or photographs to show that work has been completed. This is important as we could refuse your request if you do not provide sufficient information and evidence. 

If the request is refused you will be given an explanation of why. You will also be given advice on any action you need to take, or evidence you need to provide, before your request can be agreed. 

If you do not agree with our  decision to refuse your request, you can raise the matter with our Lead Officer for Food. If you are unable to resolve matters, you can use our Borough of Poole Complaints Procedure.

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How long do I have to make my 're-visit' request? 

There is no deadline for this. You can ask at any time after you have taken action to make the necessary improvements that were identified at your inspection. You cannot, however, dictate when the re-visit will take place. 

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How soon will the ‘re-visit’ take place? 

Usually, the re-visit will not take place in the first three months following the inspection at which you were given your food hygiene rating. If, however, you were required only to make structural improvements, repairs, or an upgrade to equipment, we may choose to carry out the requested re-visit sooner than this. 

  • if you make your request during the three months following the inspection, you can expect a re-visit within six months of the inspection but you will not  be told a specific date and time

  • if you make your request later than three months after your inspection, you can expect a re-visit within three months but again you will not be told a specific date and time.

If you are still waiting for a re-visit after these times, you can ask our Lead Food Officer to investigate. If you are unable to resolve matters in this way, you can use Borough of Poole’s Complaints Procedure.

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What happens next and when will I know the result of the re-visit? 

At the re-visit, the Food Safety Officer will assess the standards of hygiene at your premises. You will be notified in writing what your new food hygiene rating is. This will either be done at the time, or within 14 days (this includes weekends and bank holiday). Your rating could stay the same as before, or it could go up, or down. 

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Where can I get further advice for my food business?

Guidance and other resources to assist businesses to improve food food safety and their Food Hygiene Rating are available on the Food Standards Agency website at www.food.gov.uk/goodbusiness

As part of your own self assessment to review your management of food hygiene, improve standards or just understand the criteria we use to assess your rating you may wish to use the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme Checklist which is available to download. The checklist is for your use and should not to be returned to us. 

We are always happy to provide businesses with general food safety advice, so please contact us directly if you would like further information, and you may wish to look at our Food Guidance.

For further advice and information, you may find the food business newsletter "Gut Reaction" helpful. This is a publication that is produced jointly by Dorset Councils.

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At a glance - examples of Ratings 1-5

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