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FSA buys out rival

Corin Williams08/03/2012 - 14:01

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FHRS rating scheme on course
FHRS rating scheme on course

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said it is on target to roll out the Food Hygiene Rating System (FHRS) to more than 90 per cent of UK councils ahead of the Olympics after paying £630,000 to a commercial rival.

In September last year the FSA acquired the Scores on the Doors (SotD) rating system run by Transparent Data Ltd, taking on its existing contracts and software. In addition the company entered into partnership with the FSA to help merge the two databases.

An FSA spokesperson said: ‘It has allowed us to reduce the migration burden and IT costs for over 100 SotD local authorities. It also removes the ongoing annual service and hosting cost for SotD associated with the previous commercial contract arrangements.’

The FSA has been encouraging councils to move from the SotD system and branding in time for the Olympics in July. Chief executive Tim Smith has made creating a single UK rating system a priority.

The spokesperson said currently 51 per cent of councils in the UK were now using the FHRS. ‘A further 44 per cent are working towards launch over the next four or five months, and a number of others are expected to commit to the scheme this year,’ she added.

‘Of the 125 local authorities that were publishing SotD ratings on Transparency Data’s website at the time we announced our partnership agreement with the company, 95 per cent are running FHRS, preparing to launch it or expected to commit formally to it later this year.’

The FSA is working over the next three months with Transparency Data partnership to add more functions to the FHRS database and improve its usability. The spokesperson said: ‘We are also working with Transparency Data to re-configure the SotD mobile phone app so that it can be used for the FHRS. The app will be available in time for the Olympics.’

Paul Hiscoe, a Transparency Data director, said: ‘Transparency Data will continue to provide additional services over and beyond what the FSA’s remit is.

‘Quite a lot of authorities have branched out to do things like local healthy eating schemes, fair trade and sustainable restaurants. Our title will be linked to the FSA, it will provide the ratings according to the FHRS bandings and symbols and so on, but then we will provide the additional information.

‘We will also be providing a reporting and analysis service to any interested food business.’

The FSA also held meetings with local authorities that have not signed up to FHRS, instead either choosing rival rating schemes or not implementing a scheme at all.

Greenwich RBC was one of the first councils to set up its own hygiene rating system for local food businesses and will also be hosting Olympic events this summer.

Representatives recently met with Mr Smith to discuss moving over to the FHRS, but it was agreed the council would keep to its existing scheme at present as many businesses have been using it since 2005 and there was good public awareness.

The council said it would look at the possibility of switching to FHRS later on in the year and that it was not opposed in principle to using the scheme.

Speaking to EHN in November, Mr Smith said he thought rolling out the FHRS for the majority of councils in time for the Olympics would be possible, but might involve the government introducing legislation to make the scheme mandatory.

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