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How to get a 5-hygiene rating

Burger with stars icons on a wooden background. Rating concept. Top view.

 Picture it, your local Environmental Health Officer walks in, white coat, clipboard, tools at the ready, they run their fingers across the surfaces of the premises , they review the temperature of the food in the chiller , they flick through the pages of your food safety paperwork , they complete their paperwork and congratulate you with being awarded your 5 hygiene rating…celebrations can begin…its feels great doesn’t it!…well…this is not always the outcome…read on to find out how you can make sure that you are in the best place to receive a 5 hygiene rating sticker to display proudly on the entrance to your food business.

Essentially there are 3 things you need to do in order to get your 5-hygiene rating, but I can let you know the 4th and final secret that the majority of businesses fail to remember…read on to find out what the secret is!

1. Confidence in Management

In a nutshell Environmental Health Officers are looking for:

A documented food safety management system – i.e. Safer Food Better Business pack that is applicable to your business (Childminders, Caterers, Retailers etc), that it is up to date (reviewed in the last 12 months) reflecting what you do in your business, trained out to staff and applied by them. You may have a bespoke system based on HACCP principles in place but again, you must ensure that it is relevant, up to date and applied to your business.

Training – make sure that your staff that handle or prepare food are trained in food safety principles commensurate with the level of food handling they undertaken i.e. a front of counter staff making coffees, using tongs to place cakes onto a plate is lower risk that then chef in the back making ready to eat meals, preparing complex dishes, raw foods and cooked foods etc. Ensure that training records are available.

Allergen Management – make sure that you have readily available a matrix detailing your menu dishes and the allergens that they contain, ensure staff have received basic food allergen training and know where to find allergen information if asked by a customer. A free online training tool can be found at

2. Structure

Is it clean? Very simple, its all well having cleaning documents in place that say things are being cleaned, but, an Environmental Health Officer can tell if it hasn’t been cleaned for some time. Clean up spillages as they happen. Quite often things that are dirty have been missed out on the schedule. A tip to writing a detailed cleaning schedule is as follows;

Starting in one corner of the room that needs cleaning, take a pen and paper and look up and down, move towards your right, until you complete a full loop of the room, writing down everything that you see, even if you see the same type of equipment e.g. microwaves x 4.

Repeat exercise facing into the room as sometimes there are surfaces and equipment centrally.

Then go through the list and delete duplicates

Then review each item and decide if the item should be cleaned as you go, cleaned daily, weekly, biweekly monthly etc.

Then split the list down into individual lists based on the frequencies i.e. as you go, daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly etc.

Now you have created your cleaning lists, you now need to determine what is needed to clean each item i.e. cleaning products and equipment.

You can now turn this into a checklist

Is it in good repair? If its broken fix it, don’t hang onto things that could represent a foreign body hazard or encourage microbiological harbourage because it is not smooth and easy to keep clean. Examples of common items found broken include;

  • Whisk tips
  • Deteriorated plastic jugs
  • Chopping boards
  • Fridge door seals
  • Hard plastic storage containers

3. Food Handling Practices

Are you doing what you say you do? and is what you do, written down! If you follow the contents of the Safer Food Better Business Pack or your bespoke HACCP system, if written correctly, you can’t go far wrong. Common practice issues that can result in lower food hygiene rating sores include foods not covered or dated, raw food stored above ready to eat food, temperature of storage units for both hot and cold not correct, personal protective equipment dirty, spitting, chewing gum, touching face without washing hands and not washing hands regularly and at the correct times to name but a few. Unfortunately, these are all things that are only seen at the time of the inspection, and typically, our legs turn to jelly and we start doing things that we never do.

The Big Secret…and then finally, this requirement whilst it can be seen as effort and hard work on occasion, it is so simple and if the right approach is taken, can be so easy! it’s a true reflection of whether food safety culture is at the core of a business and driven from the top down, or, just for show…

you must make sure that points 1, 2 and 3 above are in place, up to date, and fully applied 365 days of the year…yes…that’s it…the fourth secret!

Got a question?

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