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Withdrawal of Eat Safe Scheme

27 October 2011

The Eat Safe Award Scheme, which is administered by the Food Standards Agency and district councils, is being withdrawn in Northern Ireland, due to the introduction of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.

The Eat Safe scheme was developed as an incentive to raise food safety standards in catering establishments and to reward those businesses that strived for excellence in hygiene standards. Catering food businesses who met the criteria for an Eat Safe award were provided with a certificate and sticker for display in a prominent position in their premises and their information was displayed on the Eat Safe website.

In June 2011 a new national scheme, the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS), was launched in Northern Ireland to provide consumers with information about food hygiene standards in establishments where they purchase food. This scheme rates food establishments against compliance with food hygiene legal requirements and provides a rating on a scale from 0 to 5. A rating of '0' means 'urgent improvement necessary' and a rating of '5' means 'very good'. The scheme is being rolled out across Northern Ireland, England and Wales. A separate scheme operates in Scotland.

The FHRS is co-ordinated by the Food Standards Agency in partnership with district councils. Currently 17 of the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland are operating the scheme, with a further eight councils due to join in 2012. For those businesses whose councils are operating the scheme, you will have been sent notification of your rating, a sticker and certificate to display on your premises and your rating will have be uploaded onto the FHRS website - www.food.gov.uk/ratings. For those whose councils are preparing to launch the FHRS, a food safety officer from your local district council will be in contact with you to explain the scheme in more detail and to confirm when it will go live in your area.

In order to ensure that the FHRS is fair to food businesses, it has been designed to include a number of safeguards. These are: an appeal procedure; a 'right to reply'; and an opportunity to request a re-visit when improvements have been made in order to be re-assessed for a 'new' rating.

Now that the FHRS has been launched and given the projected uptake of the scheme, a decision has been made to withdraw the Eat Safe award in NI as it is important that consumers are given a single and consistent message regarding hygiene standards. You should remove from display any promotional material relating to the scheme, particularly your Eat Safe sticker and certificate. During the next routine visit to your business, your district council food safety officer will be checking that this material has been removed from display.

The Food Standards Agency is planning to continue the promotion of this scheme to consumers in Northern Ireland, in partnership with district councils and other stakeholder organisations. For information about the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and how to maximise the promotional opportunities for your business, contact elaine.donaghy@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk or telephone 028 9041 7743

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