Food hygiene rating plan for Wales to put 'scores on the doors'

Fish and chips
Image caption About 30,000 businesses in Wales would be covered by the food rating scheme

Restaurants and takeaways in Wales could be required by law to publicly display food hygiene ratings on their premises.

It would be the first compulsory "scores-on-the-doors" scheme in the UK, the Welsh government says.

Ministers want customers to get more details about where they eat or buy food and say this will raise standards.

The proposals follow E. coli outbreaks in Wales which led to calls for a tougher stance.

Under the scheme, businesses will be rated with a score of between zero to five based on standards on how the food is prepared, cooked, cooled and stored, as well as the condition of the premises.

All food businesses, including supermarkets, will be required to display their score in a prominent position or face fines of up to £1,000. Ratings will also be available online.

The Welsh government launched a consultation into the food hygiene rating bill.

In August, Conservative assembly leader Andrew RT Davies said E. coli outbreaks were too frequent.

He was speaking after a kebab house in Cardiff was closed temporarily when a number of people fell ill in an outbreak of E. coli O157.

'Low scores'

The Welsh government said a mandatory scheme has been backed by Prof Hugh Pennington who chaired a public inquiry into the 2005 E.coli outbreak in south Wales.

This was the second biggest E.coli outbreak in the UK and which resulted in one death, 150 cases including 31 hospital admissions and long-term health consequences for several children.

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: "It is already a legal requirement for food businesses to meet hygiene regulations set out in food law, but businesses are not currently required to display their ratings and those with low scores generally do not display them.

"Compulsory display of hygiene ratings will encourage all businesses to improve their procedures and drive up standards."

About 30,000 businesses in Wales would be covered by the scheme which could be in operation by 2014.

Currently, more than 13,500 have been rated under a voluntary scheme operated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), although it is estimated that only one in three display their rating.

The Welsh government said the FSA will continue to make funding available to Welsh local authorities so they can carry out advisory visits to businesses to help them improve their food hygiene ratings.

Karen Morrisroe, who became seriously ill after an E. coli outbreak linked to a fish and chip shop at Llay, Wrexham two years ago has welcomed the move.

"I'm all in favour of a mandatory system," she told BBC Wales.

"I know it could put some people out of business but if this is done properly it will provide customers with better protection."

During the outbreak it emerged that the fish bar had been given a 0 out of 5 rating by council officials after an earlier food hygiene inspection.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHeather Cheetham runs the Habit tea room in Llandudno explains the food guidelines she must follow

Its former owner Ramazan Aslan was later jailed for eight months for hygiene offences. The takeaway is now under new management not connected with the previous owner.

Dr Prysor Williams from Bangor University said a compulsory scheme would force food businesses to "up their game".

"There may be some resentment by businesses, by industry, but ultimately I think it is in their interests as well," said the lecturer in environmental management.

"It will help reward those businesses that are actually implementing good hygiene practises, because they will help draw more business.

"Consumers will vote with their feet. If these businesses are obliged to put up their score, and a score of zero is put on the door, then obviously you will choose to eat elsewhere.

"That will effectively force them to improve their game."

A Consumer Focus Wales survey in October showed that 94% of people in Wales thought it should be compulsory for food businesses to display their food hygiene rating score.

Consumer Focus Wales director Maria Battle said: "The consultation presents a great opportunity for the people of Wales to voice any concerns they have about food safety and to press the government to make further improvements."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites