Food hygiene scores now compulsory
Northern Ireland food businesses now have to display their ratings stickers from the Food Standards Agency after a change in the law.
The Food Hygiene Rating Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 and linked regulations are now in force, so all food businesses have to display their score from the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
Ratings range from '5', which means the food hygiene standards are very good, down to '0' where urgent improvement is necessary. The scheme has been introduced to help people make informed choices when shopping and eating out, as well as when using hospitals, care homes and schools.
The scheme was first introduced by district councils and the FSA on a voluntary basis in 2011 - but now food businesses have to display the ratings sticker they receive from the council after inspection.
Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "I am delighted to see the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which was passed by the Assembly in December last year, coming into operation today introducing the requirement for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings."
She added that the voluntary scheme had been successful, although display rates had been low.
"It was clear that legislation was required to ensure that all businesses provide this information.
"Implementation of this act will ensure that the public and visitors to the North can easily see the standard of hygiene in businesses before they choose where to eat or purchase food from."
Michael Jackson, head of local authority policy and delivery for the FSA, said making the scheme compulsory would help consumers make informed choices.