Look before you book this Christmas: don’t let poor food hygiene ruin your work party

If you're planning that special Christmas meal with work colleagues, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and South Somerset District Council (SSDC) would like to remind you to 'look before you book'.

Christmas is a time to enjoy good company and good food without worrying about food poisoning. But the truth is, you can't tell a restaurant's hygiene standards by how clean and tidy the staff look or by how busy it is.

It's the things you can't see - like germs spread by bad hygiene practices - that you need to consider. There's one easy way to set your mind at rest - check the food hygiene rating.

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from that take food safety seriously and have achieved a high rating, so there is no need to risk food poisoning while eating out this Christmas. FSA latest figures show that the percentage of food businesses achieving the highest rating of '5' has risen from 53% in 2015 to 67% in 2017. They also show that 95% of all food business have received a rating of at least a '3'.

As workplaces across the country start thinking about venues for this year's Christmas party, the FSA are encouraging organisers to check the ratings on their website www.food.gov.uk/ratings or if you're out and about, check for the green and black sticker. If you can't see one, just ask.

Nina Purcell, Director of Local Delivery at the FSA, said, "You need to consider a lot of things when picking the perfect venue for your Christmas party and you're usually not short of opinions from work colleagues, but please don't forget about the food hygiene rating. It's very easy to check on our website or just ask the business. We recommend food businesses with at least a '3' and most food businesses are achieving this. There are plenty of potential regrets at the work Christmas party, but you can help to ensure food poisoning isn't one of them."

Councillor Val Keitch, Portfolio Holder for Environmental Health at South Somerset District Council added, "This Christmas, do this one little thing for peace of mind when looking to eat out; take the time to check the food hygiene rating, pick the right place and enjoy a great meal out with the satisfaction that you've looked before you booked."

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is run by local authorities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales and applies to all food businesses including restaurants, pubs, and cafes.

Each business is given their hygiene rating when it is inspected by a food safety officer from the business's local authority. They will check how well the business is meeting the law by looking at:

  • how hygienically the food is handled - how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored;
  • the condition of the structure of the buildings - the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, pest control and other facilities;
  • and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.

At the end of the inspection, the business is given one of the six ratings from '0-5'. The top rating of '5' means that the business was found to have 'very good' hygiene standards. Any business should be able to reach this top rating.