Wales politics

Food outlets will be forced to display hygiene ratings

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe Welsh government scheme rates outlets from zero to five based on how food is prepared, cooked and stored

Wales has become the first part of the UK to force food outlets to prominently display food hygiene ratings.

The new law, which came into force on Thursday, builds on a voluntary scheme which was introduced three years ago.

Over the next 18 months, restaurants, takeaways and supermarkets must display ratings from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

But the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is still worried that food premises with poor ratings will not get their re-inspections quickly enough.

The grading system applies to places where people eat out and shop for food, as well as hospitals, schools, care homes and children's nurseries.

Outlets are rated according to how they prepare, cook and store food, the condition of their premises and food safety management.

The law - which will be enforced by local councils - requires businesses to display their ratings prominently, such as on the front door or window and at every customer entrance.

This will not happen immediately as there is a transitional period meaning premises inspected and rated from now on must display their rating.

Those that do not comply can be fined.

Speaking at a restaurant in Cardiff Bay awarded a '5' rating under the voluntary scheme, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said customers could now make "informed decisions" about where to eat or buy food.

"People want to know that the places where they are buying or eating their food are hygienic and safe," he said.

"It is not easy to judge hygiene standards on appearance alone, so the rating gives people information of the hygiene practices in the kitchen.

"The new scheme is also good for business in that establishments given higher ratings could see an increase in their trade," Mr Drakeford added.

'Unfairly inspected'

But the FSB in Wales wants ministers to fully assess how the system will work.

Spokesman Rhodri Evans said: "We remain concerned that those businesses that request a re-inspection should be provided with one in the three months set down by the scheme.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe new law builds on a voluntary scheme, known as 'scores on the doors'

"There are always going to be those businesses who feel they've been unfairly inspected and want recourse to a rating that they feel reflects the true nature of their business.

"But there are also those businesses that have addressed issues raised by inspectors and have put things right, and we should be rewarding businesses for doing that.

"A failure to provide timely re-inspections is in danger of undermining the scheme and stands in the way of its ultimate aim, which must be to drive up standards for Welsh consumers."

Julie Barratt, director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in Wales, said the institute was concerned "when it became obvious that some premises with a lower score were choosing not to display their score, because that rather undermines the system".

Image caption Mark Drakeford (right) marked the new law by a visit to a diner in Cardiff

She said the new law would improve standards, adding: "Forcing people with a low score to display the score that they have will mean that they have an incentive to improve."

The Welsh government said the Food Standards Agency (FSA) would review the scheme's operation at the end of its first year.

Voluntary food hygiene rating schemes are operating across all of Northern Ireland and have also been been rolled out across most of England and Scotland, where just a handful of local authorities have yet to sign up.

There was a consultation in Northern Ireland earlier this year to consider the impact of introducing a compulsory system.

The FSA estimates there are around a million cases of food-borne illness in the UK each year, resulting in 20,000 hospital admissions and contributing to around 500 deaths.

Five-year-old Mason Jones, from Deri near Bargoed, Rhymney Valley, died in Wales' largest E. coli outbreak in 2005.

A further 157 people - mostly children - became ill during the outbreak.

A butcher was prosecuted for breaking food safety laws and was jailed for a year in 2007.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites