How to avoid a poor food hygiene rating

How to avoid a poor hygiene rating

Food Hygiene Ratings - How to avoid getting a poor one!

2020 hasn’t been your typical year by far, and most food businesses had, until more recently, either been closed or offering reduced services such as Takeaways, and with potentially with very limited resources and revenue available.


The good news is, we are now starting to see better traction within the food and hospitality industry, and with business starting to picking up again after lockdown and the Governments Eat out to Help Out Scheme in full swing, it’s a prudent time to remember that food safety matters, and have the opportunity to review your food safety management to ensure you are fulfilling of your legal food safety obligations.


The importance of your food safety management system

Your food safety management system is the backbone of food safety within your business. All food operators are legally required to have a ‘Food Safety Management System based on HACCP Principles’ and this must be documented. For small and simple operators it is sufficient to use the Food Standards Agency Safer Food Better Business Pack to fulfil this requirement; however larger, multi-site businesses’ or those undertaking higher risk food activities, would benefit from having a comprehensive Food Safety Policy. 


Whichever system you use, it must be trained in and ‘embedded’ within your Team’s working practices and this should give you the confidence that you are ‘Inspection Ready’ all of the time and will not be in a state of panic when the inspector calls! (Check out our pre-audit checklist for help before your next audit!) 


When the Inspector does call, Inspections are based on three criteria, as listed in the first column of the table below. The broad scope of what they look for is detailed in column 2. How they score each element is based on what they find, and this can range from ‘Very Good (5) through to ‘Urgent Improvement Necessary’ (0). In Scotland, although you don’t have the 0-5 rating, the principals to achieve a pass or fail is relatively the same as outlined by Food Standards Scotland.


So let’s take a look at a summary of checks you can have in place to assist in avoiding a poor food hygiene rating. Here’s how to Comply:-

Hygiene Inspection Criteria & Scope

How to Comply

1. Hygienic handling of food including preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage.

Are raw and ready to eat foods received and stored separately? Speak to your suppliers to get them on board with separation on arrival. Having separate designated storage facilities will help staff implement the rule of separation. If not, ensure spaces are clearly labelled to denote their use.


Are foods suitably decanted and labelled on arrival? Don’t forget, retention of allergy information is crucial.  Use of food grade lidded storage containers is the best way of keeping foods safe and retaining quality during storage. Items can be neatly stacked making best use of space and the containers are easily cleanable. Ensure foods are labelled and well rotated – a displayed shelf life chart will help ensure staff know how long food should be kept for.


Are raw and allergenic foods handled in a separate area of the kitchen with designated / labelled equipment available to use? If you are not able to dedicate space for this strict ‘changeover’ controls must be in place within shared areas. Put together a ‘Raw Food Kit’ which can be brought out for use as required. This should contain raw boards, knives,  utensils & food packaging e.g clingfilm, alongside disposable gloves, aprons, cloths and a sanitiser spray.


Are dirty raw foods washed prior to use in a designated sink or container? Use of a liquid Salad wash is recommended. An organic product is very safe and easy to use and doesn’t take up valuable staff time.


Are foods cooked, cooled and reheated in a safe manner without the risk of bacterial growth or contamination? Foods must be kept very cold or very hold – avoid anything in-between and if you need to cool foods ensure they pass through the ‘danger zone’ (63 – 8 degrees) as quickly as possible. If you carry out a lot of manual cooling you may wish to review your menu or consider purchasing a blast chiller as this is a much more controlled method of cooling. Do not keep high risk foods out at room temperature at any time. If it is not in use, put it away. You may want to look at having service fridges in the cooking area to assist staff with this.


Are food handlers fit to work and wearing clean clothing? Ensure you supply a sufficient number of sets of uniforms to be able to adhere to this. Keep spares on-site in case of any issues.


Are food handlers maintaining good personal hygiene? Use of hand wash timers are becoming ever popular.

2. Cleanliness and condition of facilities and building (including having appropriate layout, ventilation, hand washing facilities and pest control) to enable good food hygiene.

Is the structure of the kitchen sound and clean? Check for gaps in structure which may allow access by pests.


Avoid flaking paint which could lead to contamination of food.


Maintain a good level of lighting to be able to carry out pest and cleaning checks effectively.


We can all tell the difference between ingrained and daily dirt. We expect the kitchen to become a little messy during service; however keeping on top of it and ‘cleaning as you go’ will avoid this becoming a long term inherent problem. Ensure structural deep cleaning takes place to the required frequency – this may need to be by a specialist contractor.


Are all food contact surfaces and equipment clean & sanitised? It is important that staff use the correct two stage cleaning methods, and apply the correct sanitiser contact time.


Is the kitchen well ventilated? The kitchen should have adequate natural and/or mechanical ventilation to maintain a working temperature of between 20-25 degrees.


Is there sufficient space to carry out processes safety? Don’t try to do too much from a small kitchen. This will increase the risk of cross-contamination of food and impact on ‘work flow’. Review and adjust your menu in line with the work space available.


Are wash basins available and suitable located? Ensure staff working in each area can quickly and easily get to a designated wash basin for hand washing. Staff shouldn’t need to go through doors or go to toilets to wash their hands.


Are wash basins accessible and supplied with soap, hand drying materials and hot /cold or mixed running water? Designate a staff member to be in charge of checking, replenishing and reporting.


Have you got a commercial waste collection? Ensure internal and external waste arrangements are in place. Internally, foot operated lidded bins are recommended as this keeps the waste secure and avoids any need for hand contact with the bins.


Are you pest free? You are legally required to maintain a pest free food business. You must monitor regularly (daily) and act on findings quickly to avoid a widespread issue. If you have an ongoing problem you must manage it to ensure food safety is not compromised, and be able to demonstrate the checks you have completed to ensure this is the case. Support from a pest control Contractor is strongly recommended as this will ensure you have preventative controls in place. Do not ignore a pest issue!

3. Management of food safety. Is there a system or checks in place to ensure that food sold or served is safe to eat, evidence that staff know about food safety, and the food safety officer has confidence that standards will be maintained in future.

Critical Control Points at each stage the food goes through must be monitored. Monitoring includes temperature checks, time controls and visual inspections.


Records don’t need to be complicated – keep them simple, and strategically placed, so it encourages staff to complete them.


Ensure staff have the necessary equipment (e.g pens & probes) and documentation available to carry out and record these checks so there is no excuse. This is your due diligence and it should be built into the daily work routines.


There are a number of methods that can be utilised to remind or assist staff with completing the required checks. These include digital systems with built-in reminders, timers, and opening / closing checklists.



Ensure the staff are trained and understand the need for these control measures. Staff work to set hygiene standards every day but do they understand the reasons why? It helps to better engage the team if they have a deeper understanding of your food safety management system. Go through your food safety management system with each team member and ensure they fully understand the contents. 


You should ask staff to sign to say they have read and understood. Allow them to take ownership of the documentation and encourage them to suggest changes to allow for continual improvement.



‘Spot Check’ the premises and ‘Spot Question’ your staff. This will assist in maintaining standards and also prepare staff in the event of being questioned by an Inspector or Auditor. 


Staff should feel confident in demonstrating what they do and why. You may wish to introduce an internal weekly / monthly audit which formalises these checks and questions and strengthens you due diligence.

What's next?

So, managing food safety can be a very time consuming task. The management system side is where most food businesses fall down. However, a digital system takes care of your temperature checks, digitalises all those cleaning checklists and provides you with one system to show to your EHO that you’ve done everything you need to maintain your 5* food hygiene rating (or pass in Scotland). 

Check out Navitas Digital Food Safety System and give your staff more time to focus on customers by removing paper based food hygiene tasks. 

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