The myths of 5 star food hygiene ratings debunked

Food hygiene ratings myths debunked

Whether you are a head chef, operations manager, owner or simply interested in food business you have probably heard of food hygiene ratings. But what do they actually mean? Food hygiene rating schemes serve as a guide for businesses and customers to help them make more informed decisions. Also known as the “scores on the doors“, these ratings encompass the food safety and hygiene standards set by your local authority. A food inspector will award you a final hygiene rating after a visit to your premises. Food trucks, restaurants, school canteens, coffeeshops or motorway services, each food business is awarded a food hygiene rating. It ranges from 0 (worst) to 5 (best) to ensure it is safe to eat at the premises. Now, we appreciate these hygiene scores can come across as illusive.
Luckily, our Navitas team has put on their Sherlock attire to debunk some classic myths behind food hygiene ratings. So let’s take you through some actionable steps to understand them better. You can then take action and achieve the highest food safety standards possible. Let’s start!

Finding out which myths of food hygiene ratings are true


Myth 1: Only food hygiene matters – False!

When it comes to your final food hygiene rating your inspector will be looking at 3 key areas:

  • How hygienically the food is handled;
  • The condition and structure of the premises;
  • The confidence in management and documentation.

Being fully aware of these three hygiene criteria is essential as a clean kitchen top and good ventilation will not suffice as proof of a safe place to eat. The structure of your business will also impact your final food hygiene rating. For example its layout, pathways for staff, ventilation, pest control, equipment maintenance etc. In addition, all relevant documentation should be available and up-to-date to act as evidence of a well, safely managed food business. This should include safety procedures, allergen tracking, cleaning routines, checklists and temperature checks.

On average, 1/7 takeaways and 1/13 restaurants fail their food hygiene inspections because they are dirty or have poor procedures in place.

With food safety regulations getting ever stricter, staying on track with paperwork and safety processes can quickly become overwhelming. How confident are you for example in your allergen labelling for October 2021 when Natasha’s Law comes into place? Implementing clear safety procedures to avoid cross contamination and allergen incidents will help boost your chances of reaching the holy grail hygiene rating of 5! Be confident in your food safety management so that your EHO leaves the premises with the right documentation and safety peace-of-mind.

Be confident in your food safety processes


Myth 2: Your food hygiene score needs to be as high as possible – True & False!

Your overall hygiene rating will lie between 0 and 5. This will be the rating you can display online and on your door. With a score of 0 you must take urgent action to solve the flagged food safety concerns. Whether it’s due to poor safety procedures, lack of staff training, pest contamination or poor temperature checks, quickly act on it. A score between 1 and 2 will be seen as a failing grade. Quick improvements are then necessary, especially if your inspector has come across a case of cross-contamination or poor staff training for example. However, a hygiene rating between 3-5 remains satisfactory. Though we all want that lovely 5* hygiene rating sticker on our doors to wow customers and staff! So the myth is true: aim for as high as possible.

Understand the food hygiene ratings from 0 to 5

Yet, when looking into the breakdown of the final rating it’s a whole different story. You actually need to aim for the lowest score possible! Here’s why:

Understanding the breakdown of the grading scheme

For each criteria of your food hygiene rating your grade will lie between 0-25 and 0-30. So the end goal at this level is to score as low as possible. A 5 star food hygiene rating will be awarded when you score no more than 5 in each of the areas of inspection. In other words, the higher the score, the less compliant. Food for thought? If you’re starting to have a bit of a sweat we’ve got some got news for you. Indeed, our team has cooked up a free, quick and easy food hygiene inspection checklist for you to be ready for the next visit. Download your free pre-inspection guide now!

Download our food hygiene pre-audit checklist

Myth 3: If you get a score between 1 and 2 you must close down – False!

A food hygiene rating of 0 means that the premises are unsafe to eat at. Therefore you will be asked to stop services until the issues are solved with more inspections lined up in the next 28 days. If awarded a score of 1 or 2 you are likely to be reinspected every 6 to 12 months. So prepare to show diligence in solving food safety issues that were flagged. And this, whether it was about the structure, ventilation, cross-contamination hazards or poor record-keeping. Nevertheless if your circumstances change or you feel like the day of inspection just wasn’t the day, you can reapply. However this can cost between £150 – £223 depending on your local authority. Alternatively you would have to be patient for another 6 months.

Food hygiene score of 1 or 2


Myth 4: Most food businesses fail due to their food safety management systems – True!

Record-keeping is key! There’s a difference of weight between the three criteria that make up your overall food hygiene ratings. Did you notice it? Your grade for confidence in food management systems and relevant documents is the most heavily weighted criteria. So don’t leave paperwork behind! Ensure all documents are available and up-to-date to show evidence of regular and safe temperature checks, cleaning routine sheets etc. By doing so you will increase your chances to shine during the next food safety inspection. In other words, consistency is key in food safety ratings. Well refrigerated food won’t guarantee that lovely 5* food hygiene rating if you have little or no evidence that food safety is taken seriously. So get your safety practices as efficient as possible and implement a positive safety culture. And explore our guide on how to build a super strong Food Safety Management System!

Did you just have a big sigh when reading that paperwork can’t be left behind? Fear not as Navitas guides you hand-in-hand towards seamless and efficient food safety management. And the secret ingredient is digital food safety.

Digitalising safety processes for a higher food hygiene rating


Myth 5: Digital food safety can save you 21 hours of manual work each month – True!

Here’s our final food hygiene myth. Digital food safety management saves you a significant amount of time and manual effort. With more time on your hands you can concentrate on what truly matters to you. Namely greeting loyal customers, rebranding your food business or even gaining more family time. Or perhaps reading that new audio book left untouched for weeks! Navitas’ 33 years of expertise is reflected in our complete digital food safety solution. Using efficient hardware and reliable software, it enables holistic, 360-degree control on your safety processes.

So if paperless food safety processes sound like music to your ears you’re reading the right article! Imagine having all your food safety paperwork into one central digital database. You can store digital records from checklists, HACCP plans, SOPs, cleaning checks and training schedules. Put simply, you will be mastering time efficiencies and minimal effort by combining our software and hardware (smart probe, temperature monitoring pods, allergen labelling printers). Empower your team with Navitas’ digital food safety! That way, your food inspector will get total safety confidence thanks to great traceability and accountability.

Yes we can feel the goosebumps too! Sticking that 5* rating food hygiene on your door is easier than you think. And all of that whilst giving you more time to breathe, relax and concentrate on what’s core to you.

94% of Navitas’ partners who switched to digital food safety have a 5* food hygiene rating.

Digital food safety hardware

Have we cracked all the secrets of food hygiene ratings for you?

We understand that your food safety requirements can be very specific. Or perhaps you want to feel a little bit more prepared for your next food inspection. From bespoke training to consultancy services all the way through industry best practices, our Navitas team is always ready to help. Our mission is to help you comply with the highest food safety standards. We promise not to wear our Sherlock myth-debunking attire so feel free to book a quick, informal chat with us to discuss your needs.

Alternatively you can call us on 0808 164 3773 or email us at hello@navitassafety.com.

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