Unhygienic and unclean premises

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

When you buy food it must be safe to eat. It must be prepared in hygienic and clean conditions and to strict food safety rules. This includes food sold at temporary or occasional events, for example, school fetes or market stalls. People involved in handling food must also be given adequate training and supervision in food hygiene.

Examples of unhygienic practices are:

  • food handlers smoking

  • food handlers being unclean or not wearing clean clothing

  • food handlers having uncovered cuts or grazes

  • refrigerated or chilled food kept at incorrect temperatures

  • premises not being clean, in good repair and ventilated.

This pages explains what to do if you think a food shop, vendor or restaurant is selling food in an unclean or unhygienic environment.

Making a complaint

If you notice significant hygiene and cleanliness problems at a shop or eating place, you should be aware that it may not be safe to eat the food produced there. If you suspect the food has not been prepared in a clean and hygienic environment you could argue it is not of satisfactory quality and ask for a refund. You should gather some evidence about why you think it is not of satisfactory quality before you make your complaint.

Reporting the trader

If you have concerns about the cleanliness of a shop selling food or a restaurant, you should report them to your local environmental health department who will investigate.

You can find your local authority environmental health department details from the Food Standards Scotland website.

Choosing where to eat or buy food

When you are choosing somewhere to eat or buy food you can check if the business has been given a rating for its food hygiene.

Information about the food hygiene of a premises could be available from:

  • The Food Hygiene Information Scheme

  • Eat Safe Award.

The Food Hygiene Information Scheme

The Food Hygiene Information Scheme helps you choose where to eat out or shop for food by giving you information about the hygiene standards. It covers restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, hotels and other places where you eat, as well as supermarkets and other food shops. The scheme is run by local authorities in partnership with the Food Standards Agency.

A food safety officer inspects a business to check that it meets the requirements of food hygiene law. At the inspection, the officer will check:

  • 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.

The inspection results are either a ‘Pass’ or ‘Improvement Required’. The business is encouraged to display its result using a certificate or sticker.

A business that does not get a Pass will usually look for an early re-inspection once it has met the requirements.

Eat Safe Award

The Eat Safe Award is not part of the Food Hygiene Information Scheme. If a food business receives this award it means that their food hygiene standards are better than required by law and better than the Pass certificate from the Food Hygiene Information Scheme. There is a separate sticker for the Eat Safe Award. 

Food businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

If you want to check the food hygiene rating of a food business outside Scotland but in the UK you can check it on the Food Standards Agency website if it is in a local authority area where a food hygiene scheme is being run.

Food business is not covered by a food hygiene rating

A food business might not have a food hygiene rating because there is not a rating scheme in the local authority area where it carries out its business.