Food safety ratings for coffee shops, restaurants, take-aways, hotels, clubs....

Information for the Consumer

Scores on Doors SA initiative

As a consumer, do you think SA food businesses take their food safety levels seriously? The main purpose of the Scores on Doors hygiene and food safety rating initiative is to eliminate any guesswork when eating out. To put it another way, Scores on Doors allows consumers to make an informed decision when selecting a restaurant or take-away. You can start now by using the search function at the top of this webpage.

How to make an informed choice

Participating food businesses display the Scores on Doors food hygiene certificate in a conspicuous place, this is usually on the inside of a shop front window or door. The certificate indicates the most recent food hygiene score achieved by means of a food premises inspection. On completion of a thorough inspection, the business is assigned an alphabetical letter rating indicating their food safety standard:


The benefits for SA consumers

As a matter of fact, benefits of Scores on Doors are new to South Africa. Furthermore, the way it is implemented on the local scene is also different, read... here. When considering any consumer benefits, it must be grounded in a thorough knowledge of a fully functioning rating scheme, for example in:

  • Australia

    • The Scores on Doors program makes public know how well local restaurants, takeaway shops and cafés are complying with NSW hygiene and food safety standards.
    • It enables consumers to make informed choices about where to eat or shop for food.
    • The program promotes competition and encourages businesses to strive for the highest hygiene score through good hygiene and food safety practices.
    • That helps reduce food safety risks and illness caused by food, so you can enjoy your meal with greater confidence.
    • NSW references... here
  • England

    • 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 and other facilities.
    • How the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.
    • FHRS references... here

Supporting local food businesses

In South Africa we rely on restaurant and take-away businesses to voluntary participate in the initiative, this is a good reason to support participants as they take their food hygiene seriously! In most countries abroad food safety rating has voluntary status, unless it is made compulsory by local government/ authorities of a district council, province, state, or territory. SA food safety rating for businesses is known as the Scores on Doors initiative, and overseas it may be called a program, scheme, or as food establishment inspections.

Information on the inspection itself

If you would like more information on sections covered in the food safety inspection, i.e. what auditors observe, check and amend can be read... here.

Differences in rating schemes by country

Overseas food hygiene rating inspections/ assessments/ audits are done by health officials in the public sector, i.e. they are employees of local government or municipalities, whereas SA food hygiene rating inspections are undertaken by auditors and freelance Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) operating in the private sector, i.e. they are either businesses or self-employed.

The advantage for SA food businesses and auditors is they can utilise more quality time on the inspection itself, i.e. peruse records, correct hazards and provide advice, etc. Disadvantage is the inspection is not free, nonetheless, to attract voluntary participation inspection fees are deemed as affordable.

If a food business fails their inspection, the Scores on Doors food hygiene certificate will NOT be issued.

Reasons why Scores and Doors SA is a private sector initiative

Taking local food safety challenges into consideration, the launching of a local government food safety rating scheme could take many years, or not happen at all. Some of the most likely contributing factors are:

  • Dysfunctional municipalities.
  • Bankrupt or cash-strapped municipalities.
  • Shortages of:
    • Time – A food business inspection is only one job function of the municipal EHP, other job functions include safe water supply, basic sanitation, waste disposal, air and water quality, vermin control, radiation, noise control, communicable disease control, port health and monitoring informal traders to name just a few.
    • Equipment – Health officials need the necessary equipment to conduct an inspection, e.g. motor vehicle, correct attire, thermocouple with the appropriate probes, specimen and test kits, alcohol swabs, flashlight, forms and stationery, etc.
    • Manpower – There continues to be a serious shortage of municipal EHPs in the country in relation to the WHO guidelines of 1 EHP per 10 000 population. Funding is proving difficult as each year passes, and “where” the salaries will come from when municipalities employ more EHPs.
    • Information Technology – Computer networks, hardware and specialised software requirements with suitable backup service.
    • Data – Collecting, accessing and storing inspection data. Data has to be made available online with expansion to cell phone apps, and rapid distribution of food hygiene rating certificates to food businesses across SA.

As conditions start to improve within local government departments and municipalities, this would lead to collaborative projects and partnerships between the public and private sector by means of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Lastly, we do however remain optimistic that things in the public sector will improve in the near future to accomplish this.


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