Diners set for easier access to hygiene scoresGovernment wants to see a nationwide scheme

06 September 2006

A knife and fork next to a plate

Diners could soon be able to check out the cleanliness of their favourite restaurants under a planned nationwide scheme.

The aim of the scheme is to make hygiene ratings – known as ‘scores on the doors’ - more easily available to customers.

Already some councils publish these scores on their websites but others provide the environmental health assessments only on request. Which? has long campaigned for this information to be freely available.

Now the (FSA) is backing a number of pilot schemes in England and Scotland with the aim of finding the most effective method and rolling it out nationwide.

Sixty councils

London councils have signed up to a joint pilot project to be launched in January. An FSA spokeswoman said: ‘The agency is trialling a variety of schemes, with the aim of rolling out a consistent, nationwide programme to provide this information to consumers.

'The trials will involve up to 60 local authorities, and the majority are due to begin by January next year. The Agency is providing some direct financial support, help with IT, training and evaluation of the pilots.’

Under a nationwide scheme local councils would display their environmental health inspectors' findings on websites.

The ratings would show how food outlets fared when assessed on issues such as their cleanliness, storage and preparation.

Restaurants could then choose to display hygiene scores on their premises but won't be forced to do so.

Win-win situation

Which? Chief Policy Advisor Sue Davies, who has campaigned for hygiene reports to be made public, said: 'The way things stand, unless you are prepared to become a hygiene inspector yourself, you've got no way of knowing whether eating in your local restaurant is a risk worth taking.

‘Publication of hygiene scores – on council websites as well as ‘scores on the doors’- is a win-win situation for everyone. People would be able to eat out with more confidence and food outlet standards would be forced up as a result.’