Hygiene rating schemes: evaluation findings

Last updated:
20 March 2013
The Food Standards Agency is today publishing early findings from an ongoing evaluation of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) and the Food Hygiene Information Scheme (FHIS).

These findings are being used by the FSA to develop the package of support for local authorities operating the FHRS and FHIS, move forward with the ongoing communications strategy and inform policy development.

About the evaluation

The FSA has commissioned the Policy Studies Institute to evaluate the FHRS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the FHIS in Scotland.

This is a major evaluation exercise which began early last year and which will run to mid-2014.

The evaluation will be carried out via a process study and an impact study, which are designed to:

  • explore how the schemes are being implemented
  • check if they are operating as intended
  • assess the impact on consumers, businesses and local authorities
  • assess the impact on business compliance levels and on public health

The process study

Today’s report and case studies, which you can see via the link to the research project below, sets out the findings from the first stage of the process study.

This stage considered early implementation of FHRS and FHIS, when the schemes were still relatively new, when many local authorities were still operating their own 'local' hygiene rating schemes and before the Agency implemented its national communications strategy.

FSA policy officials were interviewed about the early adoption of the schemes, while the practical issues involved in setting up and operating them were explored from the perspective of local authorities.

The views of the two main target groups that the schemes intend to influence – food businesses and consumers – were also considered.

Main findings

The main findings are as follows:

  • Generally local authorities recognised the benefits of a single national scheme and any barriers to adopting the scheme were practical and/or financial in nature.
  • FHRS/FHIS were viewed by local authorities as a tool to enhance their enforcement role. This would be further strengthened if display of ratings by food businesses became mandatory.
  • Consumer awareness of the scheme was generally low at this stage, but there was evidence of the FHRS influencing those who had some awareness of the scheme.
  • Few food business operators fully understood the details of the scheme, but there was evidence that some had made changes and improved their rating.

Final report

The Agency will be publishing emerging findings throughout this long-term project, with a final report expected to be published in the summer of 2014.