The food hygiene rating scheme tells you about the hygiene standards in restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, hotels, and other places you eat out, as well as supermarkets and other food shops. Find out how ratings are decided, what a business should do to get a good score, and how to contest the score for your business.

In Lambeth the scheme is run by Lambeth Council in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (the central Government Department with responsibility for food safety).

Sections in this guide (click title to view)

1. What are food hygiene ratings?

Telling consumers about hygiene standards in food outlets gives them greater choice. It also recognises those businesses with the highest standards and encourages others to improve.

The overall aim is to reduce the number of cases of food poisoning which currently affects about one million people in the UK every year.

Having a national scheme in place will help residents and visitors to make informed choices about where to eat out or shop for food not just within Lambeth/London but also further afield. It will also help make sure that businesses are treated fairly and consistently with local competitors and with their competitors more widely.

2. Find a rating

You can search for ratings for local businesses and anywhere else the scheme is being operated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Food hygiene rating sticker Businesses are also given a window sticker and certificate showing their rating and are encouraged to display these at their premises in places where you can easily see them when you visit. Display is voluntary at the moment.

3. Deciding the rating

Each business is given a rating following an inspection by a food safety officer. This is based on how well the business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene law at that time.

In particular:

  • how hygienically the food is handled – safe food preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage
  • the condition of the structure of the premises – cleanliness, repair, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
  • how food safety is managed and documented – using a system such as Safer food, better business or Safe Catering

The rating reflects the conditions found at the time of the last inspection and does not reflect the quality of food or the standards of service the business provides.

The different ratings

A business is given one of these six ratings:

Six hygiene ratings

All businesses should be able achieve the top rating of 5.

Where a business does not achieve the top rating, the food safety officer will explain to the person that owns or manages the business what improvements are needed.

4. How your business can get a top rating

All business should be able to achieve the top rating.

To achieve this, you must be able to demonstrate very good compliance with legal requirements for food hygiene. The level of compliance will be assessed by the food safety officer when your business is inspected. See 'deciding the rating' above for how this is assessed.

Demonstrating food is being handled hygienically

You can do this by showing, for example, that:

  • there are high standards of personal hygiene of staff – eg clean over-clothing (such as aprons), appropriate headwear, minimal jewellery and regular and appropriate hand-washing
  • control measures in place to prevent cross contamination – eg use of separate areas for handling raw and cooked foods, proper use of colour coded chopping boards, and correct use of appropriate cleaning chemicals
  • foods are stored at the correct temperature – eg food stored in fridges is maintained at less than 8°C and that the chill chain is protected
  • foods are properly cooked, re-heated and cooled – eg foods are cooked to 75°C or hotter and are checked visually for signs of thorough cooking, and foods are cooled quickly and as necessary refrigerated

Condition and structure of premises

There should, for example, be:

  • a suitable structure which is clean and in good repair throughout the premises
  • adequate natural/artificial lighting
  • adequate natural/artificial ventilation
  • a structure proofed against pest entry

Managing and documenting food safety

It is a legal requirement for food businesses to provide documentary evidence that the food they produce is safe. This should:

  • identify and show an understanding of the food safety hazards (microbiological, physical and chemical) within the business
  • provide evidence that measures have been taken to effectively control these hazards and that these measures are reviewed as appropriate
  • provide evidence that all food handlers are supervised and instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters in order that they produce food that is safe to eat

The Food Standards Agency has produced systems to help create a documented food safety management system – Safer food, better business or Safe catering.

These are suitable for many types of food business, but not all.

Improve your rating

To get the best possible rating, you should:

  • Look at your last food hygiene inspection report to check that you've taken all of the actions needed to ensure that you meet legal requirements – if you can’t find your last report, contact us at foodhealthandsafety@lambeth.gov.uk or telephone 020 7926 6110 and we will be able to give you a copy
  • At your next inspection, if you don’t get the top rating and you have queries about the improvements you need to make to get a better rating, then the food safety officer will be able to give you advice

5. Unfair or wrong ratings

If you think the rating for your business is unfair or wrong, the owner or manager of the business should talk to food safety officer that inspected your business why the rating was given.

Right of appeal

If the business owner or manager still thinks that the rating is unfair or wrong, they can appeal in writing.

You must send this to us within 14 days (including weekends and public holidays) of being told your rating.

Right to reply

The owner or manager of the business also has a right to reply.

This is different from an appeal. The owner or manager can complete the right to reply form to show how the business has improved hygiene or to say if there were unusual circumstances at the time of the inspection. Replies will be vetted by the local authority prior to them being posted on the website. A business's right to reply will be published online by the local authority with the business's hygiene rating.

Request another visit to inspect hygiene standards

The owner can ask us to inspect hygiene standards again and check the rating is correct.

We will only revisit if the improvements to hygiene that the local authority food safety officer told the business about at the last inspection have been made.

The owner or manager of the food business can only request a revisit once for another inspection to be carried out before the date of the next planned inspection. Complete this form to request a revisit.