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Councils shun food safety ratings

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Only 18 councils have signed up for a scheme designed to end the proliferation of local rating systems for food hygiene.

The Food Standards Agency launched its green and black stickers for catering premises on 30 November, which will show a rating from ‘five’ (excellent) to ‘zero’ (urgent improvement required) based on inspections by councils.

But only six English and 12 Welsh councils are displaying their ratings on the FSA website, covering 5,777 premises in all, even though this scheme is close to the five star one used by many councils.

Controversy erupted two years ago after the FSA tried to stop councils using this system and replace it with either three stars or a pass/fail status. Councils argued this would be costly and hard for the public to grasp.

An FSA spokeswoman said it expect 167 councils to be using the national rating by next summer – 128 in England, 22 in Wales and 17 in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland a separate pass/fail system operates, so far used by 11 councils but with 26 out of the 32 due to use it by late 2011.

The FSA said the scheme was intended to reduce the one million cases of food poisoning occurring each year and to “avoid further proliferation of ‘local’ schemes and to ensure consistency for businesses and clarity for consumers”.

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