There are strict standards in food safety to protect the public, but just how unhygienic does a business need to be to get a zero-star rating?
In the ratings scale used by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a zero-star rating is the lowest, as you might expect.
What does a zero-star rating actually mean?
The FSA guidelines state that a zero-star rating means that “urgent improvement is required”.
It’s important to note that ratings are not just a reflection of food poisoning cases that have already occurred – they’re designed to help prevent such cases ever happening.
So they’re looking at overall hygiene standards which may indicate the level of risk, rather than what’s already happened.
Is it true that a zero-rated business might not be unsanitary?
Correct. Some businesses have hygiene conditions that could turn your stomach, of course, and these are usually closed at the earliest opportunity.
But some places, even with zero-star ratings, are not immediate risks to public health.
So zero-rated businesses have a chance to improve?
As mentioned, a rating of zero doesn’t mean diners are definitely going to become sick if they eat food, but it does mean that business needs to make urgent improvements, as the risk of poor hygiene is assessed as higher.
These places with low ratings, from zero up to two, for example, will be subject to more regular spot checks.
They could also be required to make specific improvements within a certain timeframe – or they could face fines, or even possible closure or prosecution.
What are the consequences of a zero-star rating?
If a business does score a zero rating, the local authority has the power to close it down, if it poses a health risk to the public.
The food safety officer will tell the business how quickly improvements must be made and this will depend on the type of issue that needs to be addressed.
But if the officer finds that a business’s hygiene standards are very poor and there is an imminent risk to public health, when food may be unsafe to eat, the officer must act to ensure consumers are protected.
This could result in stopping part of the business or closing it down completely until it is safe to reopen.