Five Star Food Safety Scheme Under Threat
Fears for restaurant hygiene levels as Government considering scrapping Score on Doors
An in-depth assessment scheme that ranks restaurants, takeaways and other food businesses for hygiene and food safety standards is under threat.
Last year local authorities introduced a "five stars" assessment test that ranked safety and hygiene levels at food establishments in the borough called ‘Score on the Doors’. However, the Government quango responsible for food safety wants to roll out the assessments nationwide and axe the five stars test.
The Food Standards Agency wants to replace the five stars system with a simpler and less comprehensive testing regime that would not be as useful or informative for the general public.
It is currently consulting on proposals to introduce a new national ‘Scores on the Doors’ testing scheme that would either involve a less in-depth "three stars" test or a simple "pass/fail" system.
A council spokesperson on food safety and consumer protection issues has warned the Government that it will only encourage lower safety standards if it drops "the existing highly successful system".
He said, "The system that is in place at the vast majority of councils up and down the country is working well. It is comprehensive, coherent and detailed and gives environmental health officers the ability to look at a wide range of safety and hygiene issues in food businesses.
"Our experience has been that whenever a restaurant is given a low score under the five star system, there is a real incentive for them to quickly improve that score. Businesses that have scored only two out of five stars, which is only borderline compliance with food hygiene laws, have clearly understood that they need to rapidly raise their game, and in virtually all the cases we have seen this is precisely what they have done.
"Instead of improving conditions the Government will have driven down standards in the industry.
"And by introducing a less comprehensive and detailed system of assessment, consumers will be starved of the information they need to make informed choices about where they should shop or eat.
"There is a feeling among environmental health officers that the axing of the five star system is a sop to big business and the big multi-national food chains. Because they have so many outlets they find it more difficult to ensure high standards everywhere and consequently would prefer a simple pass/fail system.
"A big fast food chain that scores only two or three stars under the existing system is an embarrassment these big companies can do without.
"The five stars system has been proven to drive up standards and is easily understood by consumers and businesses alike. It would be pure folly for the Government to abolish it but that is what is likely to happen unless consumers voice their support for the existing arrangements."
To find the score of your nearest restaurant, takeaway, food shop, school, nursery or hospital canteen and any other typo of food establishment visit www.yourlondon.gov.uk/foodscores.
The deadline for councils to respond to the FSA on the cessation of the scheme is August 15, 2008
July 19, 2008