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The Food Standards Agency or FSA, in partnership with local authorities, is responsible for the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Food Hygiene Information scheme in Scotland. These schemes help consumers choose where they wish to eat out or shop for food, by giving them information about the hygiene standards in various restaurants, cafés, takeaways, hotels and food stores. The schemes also encourage businesses to improve hygiene standards, with the overarching aim is being to reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses.

These ratings show how good a business is performing and customers can search specific information about hygiene standards at restaurants, takeaways and food shops by visiting food.gov.uk/ratings.

The FSA is working with local authorities to encourage as many of them as possible to run the national schemes so that consumers can compare hygiene ratings of food businesses wherever they wish.

Each local authority can choose whether it wants to take part or not but numbers are increasing all the time. The scheme is now running in all areas of Wales and in 96% of areas in England and Northern Ireland.

It’s not easy to judge hygiene standards on appearance alone, so the rating gives you an idea of what’s going on in the kitchen, or behind closed doors. You can check the ratings and use the information to switch to or choose an outlet with higher standards. It’s also good to share this information with friends and family.

Ratings are given to places where you can eat out such as restaurants, takeaways, cafés, sandwich shops, pubs, and hotels. They are also given to schools, hospitals, residential care homes, supermarkets, bakeries and delicatessens, so in effect virtually everywhere where food is available.

The only exceptions might be places you might eat away from home at or buy food from, places that are a low risk to people’s health, like for example a newsagent selling only wrapped sweets. These businesses might be listed on the aforementioned website but will be shown to be ‘exempt’ from the scheme. Childminders and businesses that offer caring services at home are not given ratings.