All school meals premises are registered with the environmental health department at its local Council. Environmental health officers inspect our premises regularly, make recommendations where necessary and provide a ‘hygiene rating’.
The food hygiene rating system is run by local Councils in partnership with the Food Standards Agency and shows how closely the business is meeting the requirements of food hygiene law. It helps consumers choose where to eat out or shop for food by providing information about the hygiene standards in restaurants, takeaways and food shops.
The hygiene ratings for all food businesses can be checked at the Food Standards Agency website: http://ratings.food.gov.uk/ .
It is currently optional for food business owners to display their food hygiene rating to customers following an inspection. However from October 2016, new legislation will make it mandatory for all food businesses in Northern Ireland, including those in schools, to display their food hygiene rating to customers. Some schools may have several different hygiene ratings if there are a number of food businesses operating under different management within the school. A school which receives school meals from the Education Authority, but operates its own breakfast club is an example of this. The different hygiene ratings provided for each food business will have to be displayed and in such a way that pupils and staff can easily distinguish which rating applies to which business.
It is important to note however that certain food operations within schools are considered to be “low risk”, such as a healthy break scheme where fruit is simply washed and sliced. A food hygiene rating is not required in this instance.
The School Catering Service will be working in partnership with local councils and the Food Standards Agency to help prepare for the introduction of the new statutory scheme.