We may not be eating out at the moment, but we are using takeaways and delivery services more than usual – and it’s important that food hygiene is taken seriously.
In fact, takeaways (along with sandwich shops) have the most premises rated as needing improvement – 9.5% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 16% in Scotland.
Each year, 2.4 million people in the UK suffer from a foodborne illness, and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates that for foodborne norovirus alone, eating out is responsible for 37% of all cases and for takeaways it’s 26%.
While the evidence shows that it’s very unlikely that people can catch coronavirus from food, good food hygiene is especially important as you want to avoid being unwell at the moment.
How does where you live rank for food hygiene?
Our interactive map below shows you how your area is currently rated for food hygiene.
Hover over the two maps and zoom in to find where you live and see how the restaurants, pubs and takeaways in your area fare for food hygiene.
- MAP 1 (red) shows how many businesses are rated unsatisfactory (ranked zero, one and two in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and classed as ‘improvement required’ in Scotland)
- MAP 2 (green) shows how many businesses are rated a top rating of five (or pass in Scotland)
Worst places in the UK
We analysed the hygiene ratings of all restaurants, pubs, takeaways and food businesses in the UK to find out where has the best and worst hygiene.
|Best hygiene (percentage rated 5 or ‘pass’ in Scotland)||Worst hygiene (percentage rated 0, 1 or 2, or ‘improvement required’ in Scotland|
|England||Gloucester City (90%)||Ealing (18%)|
|Wales||Gwynedd (85%)||Blaenau Gwent (13%)|
|Northern Ireland||Mid Ulster (77%)||Causeway Coast and Glens (3%)|
|Scotland||Stirling (98%)||Aberdeen City (24%)|
You can protect yourself by checking the hygiene rating of a restaurant or a takeaway you’re ordering from.
While food hygiene rating schemes are useful, a flaw is the inconsistency across the UK.
In England and Scotland, restaurants don’t have to display their ratings, while in Wales and Northern Ireland, the display of ratings on premises is mandatory.
This means that in England only 52% of restaurants display their ratings, whereas in Wales it’s 87% and in Northern Ireland it’s 84%.
Mandatory display improves hygiene standards and therefore protects consumers – since becoming mandatory in Wales, the proportion of restaurants with a five rating has increased by 23%.
Which? has long called for the mandatory display of hygiene ratings and the FSA is now pushing for this in England.
Fake hygiene certificates
Even when restaurants do display rating certificates, we’ve found that you can’t always trust them.
We visited 14 high streets and 243 restaurants in and around London. Around half of these (124) had ratings displayed in their windows.
But 12% of those displayed were different to the rating on the FSA website and app.
Our researchers found several 0, 1 and 2-rated premises displaying stickers that said they had achieved 4 and 5 ratings.
It can take up to 35 days for ratings to be updated on the FSA website and some of these disparities could be down to this lag.
But a food inspector we spoke to told us that sometimes restaurants don’t change their stickers if they score worse on subsequent inspections.
The FSA told us: ‘Displaying a false rating may constitute an offence. If a consumer is concerned that a business is deliberately displaying a false rating they should report it to their local authority or to the FSA directly.’
What food hygiene ratings mean
England, Wales and Northern Ireland use the same scheme, a six-point scale from 0 (bad) to 5 (very good).
- 0 – Urgent improvement necessary Includes serious breaches, dity premises and no record of safety systems. People’s health is at risk.
- 1 – Major improvement necessary A number of food hygiene breaches and lack of training for staff.
- 2 – Improvement necessary Some concerns around handling practices and the facilities that need immediate attention.
- 3 – Generally satisfactory Practices are good but there is room for improvement. No immediate threat to health.
- 4 – Good Good food hygiene practices and safety systems in place, just a few minor areas for improvement.
- 5 – Very good Excellent hygiene practices and safety systems in place.
Scotland uses its own scheme, where businesses are rated either ‘pass’ or ‘improvement required’.
Restaurant ratings: expectation vs reality
A zero-rated restaurant is shut down immediately – FALSE
There are strict guidelines to follow and a hygiene inspector must be able to prove an immediate risk to public health to shut somewhere down.
This might include a pest problem not being dealt with, or multiple issues combined such as no hot water to wash hands, no suitable cleaning chemicals, dirty premises and cross-contamination issues.
A restaurant is inspected before opening – FALSE
Food hygiene inspections should be carried out within 28 days of a business opening. But this doesn’t always happen due to cuts in staffing levels and inspectors rightly prioritise higher-risk businesses.
Problems arise when businesses don’t register with their local authority, such as individuals who prepare and sell food directly to people via online platforms such as Facebook.
Unless inspectors are aware of these businesses, they go unchecked.
Restaurants are inspected every year – FALSE
Each food business is given a risk-rating during its first visit, which determines how frequently it’s inspected.
A high-risk restaurant, for example a takeaway with a lot of customers serving a large area, will be visited every six months.
A low-risk restaurant, for example a sandwich shop where much of the food arrives and is sold prepacked, would be visited every two years.
The hygiene rating a business receives also affects how often it is visited. Somewhere consistently scoring a top rating of 5 will be visited less often, whereas a business that needs to improve will be visited every six months.