The Welsh Government will introduce its Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill, designed to provide consumers with more information about where they eat or buy food and raise food hygiene practices among businesses.
Introduction of a mandatory food hygiene rating scheme is a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government and would be the UK’s first compulsory scheme.
Under the scheme, businesses will be rated with a score between 0 and 5 – with 0 meaning urgent improvement is necessary and a 5 rating meaning hygiene standards are very good.
The rating will be based on criteria including food handling standards – such as how the food is prepared, cooked, cooled and stored, the condition of the premises and the procedures in place to ensure the production of safe food..
Businesses will be required to display their rating in a prominent position, such as at the entrance to their premises, or face a fine.
Following consultation on the proposals earlier this year, the Bill includes provisions to include businesses that supply food to other businesses.
There is also a new duty on food businesses to verbally inform customers of the food hygiene rating for their establishment if requested and an associated offence if they refuse to do so. This will allow people with impaired vision or enquiring by telephone to establish the hygiene rating of an establishment prior to use.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:
“The Bill will introduce a simple but effective public health measure that will empower consumers and help to improve food hygiene standards..
“Food hygiene is essential for the protection of public health. The rating scheme will help drive up standards and benefit both consumers and businesses.
“The scheme will enable consumers to make a more informed choice about where they choose to eat or shop for food, while good food hygiene means a higher rating which is good for business.”
If the Bill becomes law, it is expected that the earliest a mandatory scheme will come into operation will be late in 2013. A lead-in time will allow businesses to prepare.
As in the current voluntary scheme, the frequency of inspections will be based on an assessment of risk to the consumer, such as the type of food business, the nature of the food and the size of the business.
Businesses will be able to appeal against their score if they consider it unjust or unfair. They will also be able to request and pay for a re-rating inspection if they have carried out improvements required.
The legislation proposes the introduction of fixed penalty notices of £200 for offences such as non-display of a rating with discounts for early payment. There are also powers to prosecute with a proposed maximum fine of £1000.