Food hygiene scheme to be rolled out across West Norfolk

Customers will be better informed when eating out in West Norfolk, thanks to the introduction of a new scheme which tells them about the hygiene standards of food outlets.

West Norfolk council joined the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme on Wednesday with the aim to roll it out across the borough.

The scheme, developed by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in partnership with local authorities, provides information on food hygiene standards to help people to choose where to eat out or shop for food.

Food outlets, such as restaurants, takeaways and pubs, are inspected by food safety officers from the council to check that their hygiene standards meet legal requirements.

The hygiene standards found at these inspections are rated on a scale ranging from zero at the bottom, which means urgent improvement necessary, to a top rating of five.

These ratings will then be made available for anyone to view on the FSA website at www.food.gov.uk/ratings and the food business will be given a sticker and certificate.

The businesses will be encouraged to display these at the entrance to their premises and means that their customers can easily see them and decide if they want to go in.

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Councillor Alistair Beales, cabinet member for community, said: 'We have joined the scheme as we can see the benefits for local food businesses and the people that eat and shop in them.

'The public will be able to use the ratings when deciding which outlets to visit and we hope that food companies will recognise that displaying a good hygiene rating is good for business.

He added: 'When customers expect to see a rating, there is a real incentive.'

Catriona Stewart, head of the food hygiene ratings team at the FSA, said it is great news that the borough council has joined the scheme.

She said: 'Around one million people suffer from food poisoning every year, and our aim in introducing the scheme is to reduce this.

'The ratings will give consumers a glimpse of what is going on in the kitchen when they eat out, or behind the scenes at the places they shop, before they make their decision about which place they prefer to visit.'

Butcher John Goddard, who has been in Downham Market for almost 20 years, has been awarded the top rating in this scheme.

He said: 'I think it's an excellent idea and it will certainly keep people on their toes.

'Everyone will want to get the top rating of five but they will need to be on the ball to get it.

'It will do the shops good and I think it will drive standards up. It will also be a comfort for customers to be able to see the place they are getting their food from is really clean.

'The inspectors go through everything like expiry dates on the food and if it comes from where you say it does.

'It takes the inspectors a few hours to go through everything - it's not just a quick look around the kitchen.'

Mr Goddard said he had no idea when the recent inspection of his business was going to happen.

He added: 'I am really happy to get the top rating but we will still keep making improvements because I want to keep the top rating.'

The launch of this scheme in West Norfolk coincides with the launch of it in nearby Broadland and Breckland.

The scheme has also proven to be a success in Norwich and across other parts of the country.