3 tips to improve your Food Hygiene Rating

Table of Contents

3 Tips to improving your food hygiene rating 1

Achieving a food hygiene rating of 5 is what every food business should be aiming for. Below are my top tips to improve your food hygiene rating.

A food hygiene rating shows how well a business is doing overall in terms of food safety, based on standards found at the time of the inspection. Following a food hygiene inspection, eligible food businesses will receive a sticker that shows their rating and ratings will also be published online.

A rating of 5 is top of the scale and means that hygiene standards are very good and the business is fully compliant with food safety laws. On the other hand, a rating of 0 is bottom of the scale and means urgent improvement is necessary.

Not all food businesses are eligible to be in the scheme but ratings are generally given to businesses such as:

  • Restaurants, pubs, cafes
  • Takeaways, stalls and food vans
  • Canteens and hotels
  • Schools, hospitals and care homes
  • Supermarkets and other food shops

You may be wondering “what does the food safety officer look at during a food hygiene inspection?”

A food safety officer from the local council will inspect food businesses to make sure they are following the law to ensure that the food is safe to eat.

They will look at three areas and to get a rating of 5 a business must score well in all three areas:

  1. Hygiene- How hygienically the food is handled, including how it is prepared, cooked, reheated, cooled and stored
  2. Structure- The physical condition of the premises, including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control and other facilities
  3. Food Safety Management- How the business manages ways of keeping food safe, looking at processes, training and systems to ensure good hygiene is maintained. The officer will also assess the level of confidence in standards being maintained in the future

Let’s take a look at each of these areas in a bit more detail.

1. Hygiene

Are you (and your staff) handling food in a safe and hygienic way?

Common reasons for a food business to be scored down on this element include, raw foods stored next to or above cooked and ready to eat foods in the fridges (and freezers), foods not covered or date labelled, foods found past their use by dates, raw and cooked/ ready to eat foods not kept separate during preparation, foods in fridges and freezers not being stored at a safe temperature and foods not being cooked, cooled or reheated to safe temperatures. Also, poor personal hygiene by food handlers including not washing hands regularly and not wearing the correct protective clothing.

2. Structure

Is your premises and equipment clean and in a good condition?

The officer will look at walls, floors, ceilings, windows, doors, work surfaces and equipment to check if they are clean and maintained in a good condition.

Common reasons for a business to be scored down on this element include, a poor standard of cleaning and structural repair, evidence of pests in the premises and inadequate pest proofing. Also, a lack of facilities for washing hands and a lack of hot and cold water supply to wash hand basins and sinks.

Did you know: A pest infestation is one of the main reasons a food business gets closed by Environmental Health.

3. Food Safety Management

Do you have a documented food safety management system in place and are your staff trained?

Did you know: If a business doesn’t have a documented food safety management system in place they will struggle to get a food hygiene rating of more than 1!

A food safety management system may sound complicated, but for small businesses the Food Standards Agency has produced the Safer Food Better Business pack which is free to download from their website. You can download a copy here. It is not enough to simply print or download this pack, you need to ensure you complete all parts that are relevant to your business. It needs to reflect what you do in your business.

Larger businesses (or those carrying out more unusual processes) may have a bespoke system in place based on the HACCP principles. It cannot be emphasised enough, whatever system you use, make sure you complete it, make it relevant to your business and follow it in practice.

Staff training is really important to ensure that your staff know how to safely handle and prepare food, how to follow your food safety management system and how to complete daily checks such as temperature checks.

Need Food Hygiene Training?

We’ve got you covered! Check out our Level 2 Food Hygiene Course taught by Natalie!

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Sources cited:






“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.