New food ratings

COUNCIL bosses will link with a national scheme from tomorrow in an attempt to ensure customers are better informed when buying food.

Hartlepool Borough Council is switching from the Tees Valley Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, which it has been involved in since 2007, to the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) administered by the Government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The new scheme will be introduced from tomorrow, and aims to ensure that customers are better informed when eating out or shopping for food.

The FSA also aims to reduce the number of victims of food poisoning, with the annual figure currently running at around one million people each year.

Damien Wilson, Hartlepool Council’s assistant director (Regeneration and Planning), said: “Although we have been running our own successful food hygiene scheme with neighbouring Tees Valley local authorities, we have opted to change to the FHRS on the grounds of consistency.

“Having a single nationwide scheme means that ratings will have the same significance wherever people buy food. The public will be able to use a rating when deciding whether to visit a food outlet, and we hope that food businesses will recognise that achieving and displaying a good hygiene rating will be good for trade.

“We are very proud of the fact that of the Hartlepool businesses to be covered by the new scheme, 79 per cent will be rated as good or very good.”

Food outlets such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs are inspected by food safety officers from the council to ensure that hygiene standards meet legal requirements. The new scheme measures standards on a scale ranging from zero at the bottom – meaning urgent improvement is necessary – to a top rating of five which is classed as very good.

From tomorrow, these ratings will be available for anyone to view on the FSA website at www.food.gov.uk/ratings

Businesses will also be given stickers and a certificate showing their rating. They will be encouraged to display these at the entrance to their premises, so that potential customers can easily see them and decide if they want to go in.