How to fail a Food Hygiene Inspection

Table of Contents

Today, I’m going to share with you 5 ways to fail a food hygiene inspection.

food hygiene rating

Hey! I’m Chartered Environmental Health Officer Natalie Stanton. And I’m here to help you manage food safety with confidence in your business.

So, why would you want to fail a food hygiene inspection? That’s the exact point, I’m pretty sure you don’t. But perhaps you’ve got your inspection coming up and you want to make sure you’re ready and not doing anything you shouldn’t.

Maybe you’re wondering what might even cause you to fail a food hygiene inspection.

Now, the way the food hygiene rating scheme is set up, as you may know, is not just pass or fail. The ratings go from zero to five, so it really does depend on what rating you would be happy with for your business.

A rating of three means ‘generally satisfactory’. And anything below a 3 really means improvement is required, it’s just a question of to what degree.

Here are 5 things that could mean a food business achieves a rating below 3:

Number 1: You don’t have a food safety management system


By law, every food business needs a documented food safety management system. This is essentially your procedures that set out how you will manage food safety in your business.

If you don’t have a food safety management system in place, and it needs to be written down, your business is really going to struggle to get a food hygiene rating of more than 1, even if everything else is ok.

If you’re a small food business, there is a free food safety management system that may be suitable for you. It’s created by the Food Standards Agency and it’s called Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) pack. It’s totally free to download from their website.

I’ve also written a step-by-step guide on how to complete the SFBB pack, which you may find helpful. You can read it here.

Number 2: If the food safety management system is not being followed by you and your staff

food inspection

Trust me, the officer is going to be checking this during your inspection.

If your system says you will do something, they will expect to see this happening in practice. Let me give an example from when I worked for local authorities.

I can’t tell you how many times I would see a food safety management system that says raw and cooked foods are stored separately in the fridges. But when I went to look in the fridges, this was not what I saw.

Number 3: Serious cross-contamination issues

cross contamination

Cross-contamination is where bacteria from a raw source (i.e. raw food) transfers on to a cooked or ready-to-eat food item. This is really serious because it’s a big cause of food poisoning.

If the EHO finds serious cross-contamination issues in your kitchen, it can definitely affect your rating. A top tip: keep raw and cooked or ready-to-eat foods separate at all times.

Number 4: Really poor cleaning

hygiene rating 1

Over the years, believe it or not, I’ve seen some seriously filthy kitchens. There could be some situations where the cleaning is so bad that the business gets temporarily closed. But other situations that it may not be quite bad enough, but still pretty bad.

Either way, filthy kitchens are going to mean a low food hygiene rating.

Number 5: Pest infestation


Rats, mice, cockroaches, you name it. If a business hasn’t taken steps to control and manage a pest issue and it’s got out of control, then this is certainly going to result in a low rating.

So, there you have it. A lot of these things come back to food safety management and essentially how you are managing food safety in practice in your business.





“How to get your 5-star food hygiene rating.”

Written by Chartered Environmental Health Officer, Natalie Stanton.

Includes a 50-point inspection checklist!

Learn what the officer will be inspecting and achieve the top Food Hygiene Rating for your business.

Here's how I can help you

Get food safety training from an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). 

This is the UK’s first self-taught, online Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene course for Catering that is created and taught by EHO, Natalie Stanton. There are no PowerPoint slides and no monotonous voiceover. In only 2 hours, Natalie guides you through the key aspects of food safety in 13 short, pre-recorded videos.