Since the introduction of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), it has been a benchmark for consumers to make informed decisions about where to eat out or where to purchase food.
The ratings reveal which food businesses are adhering to strict standards of food hygiene and exposes others which are failing to meet fundamental food safety requirements.
Serious penalties for fraud
It is imperative that Food Hygiene Ratings are taken seriously and that food businesses are honest about their results. If not, then the penalties for fraud are severe.
This was highlighted in a recent case in Derby, which resulted in the owner of an Indian restaurant being fined and banned from running any company for five years after falsely advertising a hygiene rating of five.
The restaurant Moza Derby, was given a rating of one and then zero in July 2015 by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO). Following this inspection, the proprietor of Four Brothers, the company that owned the restaurant, placed three advertisements in a local magazine which claimed that the restaurant had received a rating of five.
Derby City Council took Four Brothers to court in April 2016 - the company was fined £3171 and the owner was fined £1271, which led to the closure of the business. The Insolvency Service then made a disqualification order in June 2018 at Birmingham County Court, and the owner was ordered to pay further costs and banned from the promotion, formation or management of a company.
Protecting consumers from false marketing
This punitive sentence is a harsh reminder for all business owners who need to be aware that Local Authorities can and will take legal action against any company or individual who fraudulently claims to have a higher food hygiene rating than issued.
This substantial case highlights the importance of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. It demonstrates that consumers need to be protected from false marketing and sends a strong message that the integrity of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme must be maintained at all times.