Customers in Northamptonshire will be better informed when eating out with the launch of a new national scheme telling them about the hygiene standards of over 5,000 food outlets in the county.
On 31 March, representatives from Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire and Wellingborough Borough and District councils will officially launch the switch to the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS).
FHRS is a new way of displaying the hygiene standards of food businesses to consumers, and builds on the success of the 'Scores on the Doors' scheme previously run by the authorities. It was developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Food outlets, such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs, are inspected by food safety officers from the councils to check that their hygiene standards meet legal requirements. Under the new scheme the hygiene standards found at these inspections will be rated on a scale ranging from zero ('urgent improvement necessary') to a rating of five ('very good').
The hygiene ratings will then be published on a national website and the outlet will receive a certificate and sticker which can be displayed at the outlet. This means anyone eating out or buying food at an outlet in Northamptonshire can see its hygiene rating displayed at the premises or by checking the FSA's website at http://ratings.food.gov.uk/.
Another benefit of joining the FHRS is that by having a single scheme which is consistent nationwide, the rating will have the same significance wherever people are buying food.
Catriona Stewart, Head of the Food Hygiene Ratings Team at the FSA, said: "We recognise the real progress that local authorities in Northamptonshire have made in improving hygiene standards in food outlets through the Scores on the Doors schemes.
"But having a single nationwide scheme will mean a level playing field for businesses across the country, and consumers will be able to recognise and use the ratings in their own area, as well as further from home. So it's great news that Northamptonshire councils have announced their intention to switch to the new national scheme.'
Under the old Scores on the Doors scheme, food businesses were inspected and scored in terms of risk, from A to F, which are then translated into stars - 5 stars or excellent for an A rating, to no stars or very poor for an F rating.