An industry report has revealed half of food businesses in England do not display a hygiene rating - leading local councils to demand a change in the law to force them to do so.
Council environmental health teams score food outlets from zero to five based on factors such as kitchen cleanliness, cooking methods and food safety management.
Businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their rating, however, in England, businesses do not have to display the rating they have been awarded.
The Local Government Association (LGA) wants ministers to empower councils by legally extending the mandatory display of food hygiene ratings to England, including to online businesses.
The LGA says that businesses - including restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, sandwich shops, supermarkets, delicatessens and web platforms offering food - that fail to comply should be fined or prosecuted.
Councillor Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “Food hygiene laws need to be strengthened to drive up standards and protect people from being served unsafe food.
“With more people ordering takeaways online or on their phone, it should be mandatory for businesses in England to display food hygiene ratings on their menus online and on ‘apps’ as well as in their premises.
“This would remove the risk of customers being left in the dark on official kitchen cleanliness levels when eating or ordering food.”
He added: “Making the display of hygiene ratings compulsory in England would incentivise food outlets to improve or maintain high hygiene standards, reduce the risk of illness for customers, improve consumer confidence and save taxpayers’ money by reducing the need for, and cost of, enforcement action by councils.”
Heather Hancock, who chairs the Food Standards Agency, added: “Mandatory display has already made a big difference in Wales and Northern Ireland, pushing up business hygiene standards and giving consumers greater confidence that their food is safe. We’re preparing the case for mandatory display in England and hope to see progress soon.”