The issue of food safety and hygiene in the Australian foodservice industry has been a growing concern in recent years, with programs like the NSW Food Authority's "name and shame" register gaining momentum and support.
It wasn't until 2012 when a Sydney food business received a $97,000 fine for consistent breaches of food safety and hygiene that consumers were faced with the daunting reality of what can go on behind those swinging doors: from deplorable cleanliness to dead rats being found in food storerooms.
Rather than continuing to focus on negative publicity, councils and food authorities began to shift towards a positive scheme, adopting the Scores on Doors initiative that runs throughout parts of Europe, North America and New Zealand.
The Scores on Doors system provides a star rating to food-serving establishments based on the results of their food safety inspections. So far, NSW and parts of Brisbane and the ACT have adopted this scheme, which creates an incentive for owners and managers to maintain a higher standard of food safety.
The system works for the benefit of consumers, as it provides them with a better idea of the health risks associated with dining at any particular establishment. It also is a clear positive for those venue owners proudly displaying a top notch score for customers to see.
The displaying of food safety scores on restaurant doors provides an incentive for operators to implement strict enforcement of food safety practices in order to retain their customer base. A high score will likely increase customer traffic while a low score may hinder it.
Scores range from three to five stars (anything less would imply extremely poor food safety) and are colour coded by using red, yellow, and green stars, respectively. Green is commonly associated with good practices while yellow and red are commonly associated with poorer ones.
The aim is that customers will be drawn to enter establishments displaying a green five-star rating and deterred from entering establishments displaying a lower rating.