To understand how the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in England impacts on consumers choice of food venues


  • Patrick Owens


food hygiene rating scheme, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Food Standards Agency, consumers, COVID-19, pandemic, purchasing, food businesses


The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) was launched in 2010 by the Food Standards Authority and is used by local authorities in England to identify food safety and hygiene standards in food establishments. The scheme provides visible food hygiene rating scores, allowing consumers to easily review ratings and make informed decisions (Food Standards Agency, 2020). The Chartered Institute for Environmental Health (CIEH) are in favour of introducing mandatory display of FHRS scores, commonly referred to as “scores on the doors” in England-this is already the case in Wales and Northern Ireland. Food businesses in England are currently exempt from displaying their food hygiene score rating (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, 2018). This study aimed to understand how the FHRS in England impacts on consumer choices, specifically to understand consumer behaviour in regard to the scheme, whether the COVID-19 pandemic changed this behaviour and finally to gather consensus on whether or not the scheme should be made mandatory in England. A quantitative questionnaire was created to cover the aims of the study and was circulated via social media, approached by a hybrid of snowball and convenience sampling. In total, 52 responses were returned, analysed and presented. The study found that a substantial 98% of people believe that displaying food hygiene ratings as part of FHRS should be made mandatory, and that food hygiene ratings do influence consumer behaviour to varying degree with 67% of respondents believing it is to be an important factor when deciding where to eat. In general, the impact of COVID-19 was unclear from the result. An evident shift in opinion of consumers is not truly reflected in their behaviours. Of those surveyed, 59% believed that perceptions of food safety have changed since the pandemic, but 65% of individuals have not checked food safety ratings any more frequently than before. This study can firmly recommend that the display of food hygiene rating should become mandatory in England. However, there needs to be more investigation into how COVID-19 has impacted consumer behaviour in the context of food safety.