A new Welsh law to promote food hygiene has the potential to make Wales the safest place to eat in the UK, according to Wales’ consumer champion.
Consumer Focus Wales has been campaigning for the last three years to improve food hygiene standards, and is supporting Welsh Government proposals to introduce a new law making it compulsory for businesses to show their food hygiene ratings.
The Welsh Government’s Food Hygiene Ratings (Wales) bill will be introduced in the Senedd on Tuesday.
Liz Withers, Head of Policy for Consumer Focus Wales, said: “We warmly welcome the publication of this bill. We have campaigned for mandatory display on food hygiene ratings to provide better information to consumers and to help them make more informed decisions about where they chose to eat. These proposals provide a real opportunity to drive up standards in premises serving food and reduce food-borne illness.
‘The over-whelming majority of people in Wales have told us they want a simple and transparent food hygiene standards system. For that to be effective there has to be mandatory display of food hygiene ratings. Under the current voluntary scheme, businesses with poor scores are hiding them away – keeping consumers in the dark. Mandatory display will give consumers the information they want, and the power to make safer choices about where they chose to eat.
‘Similar mandatory schemes that run in New York and Toronto have been successful and helped to drive up standards, whilst in Los Angeles there is evidence that the introduction of a mandatory scheme resulted in a 20 per cent decrease in people being admitted to hospital with food-borne illness.
‘We hope the Welsh Government’s bill will help make Wales a beacon of food safety.’
Consumer Focus Wales is urging the Welsh Government to listen to consumers and include easy access to food hygiene inspection reports as part of the food hygiene bill, at present consumers can only access this information through a Freedom of Information request, 92% of people in Wales think they should be able to do this more easily.
Ms Withers added: ‘As the bill goes through the scrutiny process, we would like to see included a requirement for food businesses to display their ratings on their websites; we would like publically funded institutions such as schools and care homes to proactively make the ratings available to those that use their services; and we would also like to see the Bill making provision for the reasons behind a rating being made easily available to the public.
‘The more open and transparent we can make food hygiene ratings, the more power we will give to the people of Wales to make safe, health choices, whilst driving up standards in food businesses.’
Key findings from Consumer Focus Wales research
94 per cent of people think that is should be compulsory for food businesses in Wales to display their food hygiene rating score
92 per cent of people think if consumers want to know the reason why a food premises has received a score, they should be able to access the information more easily than through an FOI request.
85 per cent of people think they should be able to do this through the website
57 per cent think that they should be able to do this by asking for a copy of the report by telephoning the local authority
49 per cent -by asking for a copy of the report by writing to the local authority
50 per cent of people in Wales have seen or heard about the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme or Scores on the Doors which awards stars to food businesses according to hygiene levels, but only small numbers of people have actually visited the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme website where ratings currently have to be viewed.
A total of 1,002 telephone interviews were conducted with a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over between 11th October and 17th October 2011 as part of Opinion Research Services (ORS) telephone omnibus survey.