What happens if my business fails a food hygiene inspection?

Food preparation

If you are the owner of a business that handles, serves and/ or sells food, you already know how important hygiene and sanitation are when it comes to your reputation. Not only do your hygiene standards affect the positive (or negative) word of mouth that travels amongst your customers’ social circles (and social media), your hygiene is also of crucial importance when it comes to government food hygiene inspections.

Whether you own a restaurant, a manufacturing plant or a food retail outlet, read ahead for important information that you need if your business is going to pass your inspection with flying colours and succeed overall.

We've created a free 3-page hygiene inspection checklist. Created following the structure of the Food Standards Agency's own SC5 hygiene inspection checklist, this list serves as a guide for making your premises inspection-ready. Download for free here.


What is the food hygiene inspection ratings scheme?

The food hygiene inspection scheme has been designed to give consumers a sense of confidence when it comes to choosing where and when they spend their money on food. The ratings achieved by a business must be prominently displayed, giving consumers instant information about the hygiene standards at pubs, cafes, takeaways, hotels, food trucks, and restaurants, as well as at supermarkets and shops that sell prepared food.

We all know that it is not always accurate to judge the cleanliness of a business based on the appearance alone, and so the rating system is meant to convey information about what is happening behind closed doors.

You can find out more about the food hygiene ratings scheme here.


All aspects and physical areas of your business will be inspected by a professional, and based on this information you will be given a numerical grade (0 through 5, with 5 being very good and 0 being the lowest). Consumers are now well aware of what these ratings mean, and they are likely to use them in their decision making process about where to spend their hard earned money. This is why it is of integral importance that you achieve a high rating and maintain it over time – your bottom line depends on this.


Who carries out food hygiene inspections?

A licensed food safety officer (from the local authority in which your business is located) will visit you and check to ensure that everything meets the requirements of national food hygiene law. It is important to note that they do not have to make an appointment, and they will often come by without any notice at all. For this reason it is imperative that your premises and employees are in a constant state of readiness for an inspection.


What is the licensed food safety officer assessing during the inspection?

During your inspection, the officer will be checking and assessing many elements, including (but not limited to):
  • Food storage standards – This including the temperature of all fridges and freezers, the cleanliness of the area, the condition of storage units and the containers in which food is stored.  
  • Preparation and handling – The inspector will assess how hygienically all food is handled and prepared, including cooking temperatures, re-heating methods, cooling timing and methods, and storage.
  • The condition and cleanliness of the building – This includes the layout, lighting, ventilation, toilet facilities, and overall cleanliness of the entire structure of your building.
  • Management plans and education of staff – The officer will question the manager and staff about cleanliness and food handling policies to ensure that everyone is on board and that standards will be maintained going forward. 


What will happen to your business if you fail your food hygiene inspection?

Any business that receives a rating of ‘0’ or ‘1’ must immediately make major improvements to their hygiene standards, and they are often forced to close to the public in order to make changes before they can re-open. The food safety officer will give you a thorough explanation of why you have failed the inspection, and they will provide advice and guidance on how to improve your score. It will then be up to you in order to comply with all of the changes necessary.

In some cases you could also be fined (up to £5K) and you must pay this fine before you can reopen your business. The best way to avoid this potentially devastating food hygiene fine is to invest in staff education on the topic.


Food Standards Agency logo



What kinds of businesses have failed?

No one is exempt from a food service inspection fine or a 0 rating – from a fried chicken shop in Orpington to Michelin starred restaurants in Fitzrovia

If you have failed your hygiene inspection, all hope is not lost. In fact, many prominent and well known shops and restaurants have received a 0 rating in the past, but by enacting new policies and training their staff to a higher education standard they can turn this around.


What can you do to prevent failing a food hygiene inspection?

Simply put, one of the best things you can do to pass all future inspections with flying colours is to invest in education for your staff. Education is one of the most important components of any successful strategy to ensure high marks on future food hygiene inspections. Not only should you be fully briefed on and aware of all regulations, rules and laws, your entire staff must also be well educated and prepared to keep your restaurant hygienic and in full compliance with all rules.

According to the UK Food Standards Agency guidebook, “The EU’s regulation 852/2004 Hygiene for Foodstuffs requires business to ensure all food handlers are supervised, instructed and trained in food hygiene.” While you can and should provide simple, initial training for your staff members, it is always a good idea to invest in a professional training course that is facilitated by a trained and experienced expert. Many food businesses find e-Learning an efficient and cost-effective solution to this, with an online food hygiene certificate providing documented proof of compliance.


Free Hygiene Inspection Checklist

We've created a free 3-page printable checklist that will help your food business prepare for hygiene inspections from your local EHO (Environmental Health Officer). Put together following the structure of the Food Standards Agency's own SC5 hygiene inspection checklist, this list serves as a guide for making your premises inspection-ready. Click here or on the preview below to download.

Hygiene Inspection ChecklistHygiene Inspection checklist page 2Hygiene Inspection Checklist page 3


The award winning team at Appetite Learning are proud to offer Level 2 Food Safety and Hygiene courses for individuals in catering, food manufacturing and retail food sales. Avoid food hygiene fines and ensure that your business’s reputation is as sparkling clean as your pots and pans! Contact Appetite Learning for a consultation today and take the first step towards an “A” grade on your next food hygiene inspection. 

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