Frequently Asked Questions

Does Britain need a Food Advice Service?

The Food Advice Service provides up to date listings from participating Local Authorities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. Information is updated daily and is provided by the Food Standards Agency. This information can be difficult to locate, and rather uninteresting, on some Local Authority websites. Plus being a Local Authority website, it’s always a bit boring to look at.

Why is this information important?

We all have cafés, restaurants or other places where we buy food that we know and trust. The Food Hygiene Ratings schemes operated in each country of the UK are a separate assessment of how well each establishment is performing. This allows you to have an understanding of how their inspection went.

Is it compulsory for people to tell us their score on their door?

It is compulsory in Northern Ireland, and in Wales where anyone selling food online or by leaflet has to include details of how to find out their score. In England food businesses display their score voluntarily. The vast majority of food premises in the UK are rated highly, and we feel they should be proud to show their scores on the doors.

But I was really unhappy. Can I do more?

Of course. Every Local Authority would be more than happy to hear of any serious issues you’ve had. At the bottom of each food outlet’s listing you will find ways of contacting the Local Authority to let them know of any concerns. Although we’re sure they’d love to hear of good news about your meals, they are busy people and would prefer you only reported problems.

What are the scores?

Each local Council or Authority in the UK has a duty to inspect food premises periodically, and rate them from 0 (not very good) to 5 (very good). In Scotland scores are given as “Improvement Required”, “Pass” or “Pass and Eat Safe”. We’ll explain those in more depth.

So, that’s advice about where to eat out…

Yes, and that’s just the start. We’ll be working closely with Local Authorities, and food names that you trust. A comprehensive encyclopedia of information and trusted advice will slowly fill our virtual shelves.

Sounds a bit dull, all this food safety, hygiene and the like…

It probably is. But we’re pretty convinced that you’d be feeling pretty dull if you were laid up in bed with a serious stomach infection. But we know how to lighten things up – and we’ll feature the interesting and fun parts of food hygiene along with the dull stuff.

Isn’t basing it all on one inspection unfair?

We think the random inspections performed by Local Authorities are the best way to go about it. The inspection is on the way food is handled, the structure of the building, and the confidence in the management systems of the business at the time the inspector calls.

It was just a bad day…

Yes. We can all sympathise. There are times when a routine random inspection happens on a day where the whole world has collapsed around you. Everyone who receives an inspection has the right to post a response. Those responses are included – but out of around half a million ratings, there are fewer than 100 responses. Another inspection can also be requested – this comes at a cost to the food business – and a bit like insurance is something each business needs to take into account.

Who is there to help these businesses who don’t perform well?

The Local Authorities themselves – though they may sound like sharp toothed dinosaurs – are also happy to provide advice and assistance. When a food business achieves a low rating it will most likely be subject to repeat visits from the food safety team. Though they may feel like a punishment, the repeat visits are designed to help a business to improve and give confidence to the food hygiene schemes.