Rethink of star rating system for food industry urged by FPB –

Rethink of star rating system for food industry urged by FPB Published:  22 September, 2006

THE Forum of Private Business (FPB) is calling for a rethink of a pilot scheme for the food industry that awards star ratings based on inspections by nvironmental health practitioners. The system has been branded as flawed because it is too open to interpretation and could damn many compliant firms to poor ratings because of old information.

The scheme has been dubbed ‘scores on the doors’ because the star ratings are visible on the premises or on the Internet. It is being trialled in several areas and is backed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), but the FPB wants moves to roll those pilot schemes out across the rest of the UK halted. The FPB’s Food Adviser, Bob Salmon, is imploring the FSA to see common sense.

“This is a matter of regulatory creep; businesses will be left unsure of what practices to put into place in order to reach the higher star ratings. For example, the top ratings are awarded for ‘robust food safety management’ and ‘demonstrating best practice in managing and achieving’. What do these standards really mean? They are completely open to the interpretation of the individual inspecting them, as a result how can consistent standards be maintained?

“The FSA would have been better advised using the money they have spent on this project recruiting more environmental health practitioners to inspect firms.”

Currently there are around 2000 vacancies for environmental health practitioners in the 400 EHP departments across the UK. Mr Salmon has other concerns about the ‘scores on the doors’ system.

“There is no course of appeal, and the initial scores will be done on historic information which could be three or four years old. So there is the distinct possibility that firms who have improved their compliance would be given poor ratings and have to live with them until their next inspection.”

He also maintains that the scheme would only further aggravate the relationship between firms and enforcement agencies.

“We should be working to encourage compliance rather than damning non-compliance. This system would do nothing to build a working relationship between businesses and inspectors.”

The FPB would like to see a system like those introduced in countries such as Sweden or the Netherlands, where a kite mark or certificate is awarded to businesses to recognise that they are compliant with food safety regulations. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.