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Creating a virtuous cycle in food hygiene

The food service industry doesn’t know enough about food safety and hygienic practices. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of examples of good practice. And there are certainly plenty of experts in the field running efficient, safe operations. But there is much more still to learn in the industry.

NSF International, an independent organisation developing standards for public health, found that there was a significant shortfall in knowledge of food safety handling practices. The organisation’s assessment of 10,000 trained food handlers discovered that 41% demonstrate insufficient knowledge1.

It’s an alarming reminder that food service demands the highest standards of expertise in safety and hygiene. Falling below these standards can have serious consequences for public health, as well as the restaurant or food outlet in question.

The possible cost of closure, coupled with long-term reputational damage, is substantial. If a sense of responsibility for public health isn’t enough motivation – and it should be – then the business impact risked by having staff falling below safety standards will be ample reason for concern. Some of the food handling professionals falling below standards could be putting your food service business at risk on a regular basis.

And the popularity of schemes to display the hygiene standards of foodservice businesses shows that it matters. Moves to make hygiene score displays mandatory at restaurants and food outlets ( will help the industry to take ownership of these standards, wearing high scores with pride. The UK appears to be moving to nationwide rollout of mandatory displays – an example others countries could follow.

A welcome addition to the scheme would be top-down guidance on how to meet standards when hygiene scores slip. Some governing bodies already offer training as a reaction to low hygiene scores ( Wider use of similar initiatives would help create a virtuous cycle of raised standards in food hygiene.