Wales is set to be the first country in the UK to introduce a mandatory scheme requiring food businesses to openly display their hygiene rating.
The Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill was passed by the National Assembly for Wales, and is now nearing the end of the legislative process.
The next stage is for the Bill to go before Her Majesty the Queen for Royal Assent to become an Act.
The Bill will result in consumers being provided with more information about where they eat or buy food. This will help to drive up businesses’ food hygiene standards.
Introduction of a mandatory food hygiene rating scheme is a commitment in the Welsh Government’s Programme for Government and would be the UK’s first compulsory scheme.
Under the scheme, businesses will be rated with a score between 0 and 5 – with 0 meaning urgent improvement is necessary and a 5 rating meaning hygiene standards are very good.
The rating will be based on criteria which will include food handling standards – such as how the food is prepared, cooked, cooled and stored, the condition of the premises and the procedures in place to ensure the production of safe food.
Businesses will be required to display their rating in a prominent position, such as at the entrance to their premises, or face a fine. Following consultation on the proposals last year, the Bill includes provisions enabling the scheme to be applied to businesses that do not deal directly with consumers but supply food to other businesses.
There is also a new duty on food businesses to verbally inform customers of the food hygiene rating for their establishment if requested and an associated offence if they refuse to do so. This will allow people with impaired vision or enquiring by telephone to establish the hygiene rating of an establishment before deciding whether to buy from there.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:
“Today, the Food Hygiene Rating Bill cleared one of the final hurdles on its way to becoming an Act.
“Food hygiene is essential for the protection of public health. The rating scheme will help drive up standards and benefit both consumers and businesses.
“The scheme will enable consumers to make a more informed choice about where they choose to eat or shop for food, while good food hygiene means a higher rating which is good for business.”
If the Bill becomes law, it is expected the earliest a mandatory scheme will come into operation will be late 2013 to allow businesses to prepare.