Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Hospitality sector hits out at 'unfair' food hygiene scheme

The hospitality industry has hit back at the new Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, saying the information is too limited and the system “very cumbersome”.

The response comes after the Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday that celebrity chef Paul Rankin’s exclusive Belfast restaurant Cayenne received a rating of just one — meaning it needs “major improvement”.

At present there are more than 10,000 entries on the Food Standards Agency website, rating places where people can buy food including cafes, delis, restaurants and even supermarkets.

Businesses are rated from 0-5 on three broad categories of food hygiene and safety procedures, structural requirements, and the confidence in management and food control procedures.

However, no detailed information on why a particular business has received a low score is provided on the website.

Chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, Janice Gault, said the information provided on the Food Standards Agency website should be more transparent.

“This new scheme, which is aimed at the consumer, should give them a better insight into how the scores are actually arrived at,” she said.

“The idea is to act as a guide and if the only way the consumer can find out the composition of the scores is via a Freedom of Information request it would strike us as very cumbersome.

“The previous scheme, Scores on the Doors, which broke down the elements of scoring, was much more user-friendly and more reflective of the eating experience.”

Cayenne, in its previous incarnation as Roscoff, brought Northern Ireland its first Michelin star.

Cayennne manager Peter McKenna said the rating of just one following a food hygiene inspection in March was based on structural issues and not for poor food handling practices.

A spokeswoman for the Food Standard Agency said the aim of the scheme is to encourage businesses to raise their hygiene standards, reduce food-borne illness and allow consumers to make informed choices.

She added: “For a business to receive a food hygiene rating of 0, 1 or 2 this will be due to major non-compliances in any, or all of the three elements.”

Michelle Shirlow, chief executive of NI Good Food, said while she welcomed the steps taken by the Food Standards Agency to provide the public with guidance, more information needs to be, “out in the open”.

She said a debate on issues surrounding food hygiene was “healthy” and it was beneficial for food businesses to be given the chance to improve their score after three months.

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