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For nearly 20 years, the “smiley system” has helped consumers assess a café's, restaurant's, store's or other food business operator's compliance on food safety, e.g. food hygiene. The system is now being revised to make it simpler and easier for the consumer to understand the operator's level of compliance.

The Danish Food and Veterinary Authority (DVFA) frequently inspects Danish food business operators. Inspection reports are made public, and in the reports a specific smiley rating is issued, depending on the compliance level. Currently, the system includes four different smileys, ranging from a happy smiley to a sad smiley. Retail businesses must display the latest inspection report together with the issued smiley at the entrance of their shop. 

If the happiest smiley is issued to a food business operator four times in a row, and if the operator has not been sanctioned by the DVFA within the last 12 months, the operator is awarded a so-called “elite smiley”. 

The revised smiley system introduces several changes to the above. The changes have met wide political support. 

Firstly, the number of smileys is reduced from four to three. Going forward, the smiley system will thus include only a happy smiley, a neutral and a sad smiley. This change is based on consumer evaluations showing that consumers were confused by the meaning of the existing four smileys. The adjustment is based on the idea that the smileys should make it simple for the consumers to decide whether or not they would like to shop in a store or eat at a certain restaurant based on the level of food safety of the relevant store or restaurant. 

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Secondly, food business operators will no longer be required to display the inspection report and the issued smiley. When the revised system becomes effective, it will be mandatory to display only the smiley rating at the entrance of the food business operator, e.g. a bakery, restaurant, café, etc. However, the full inspection report must still be available on the operator’s website. Additionally, in future it will be mandatory to display the smiley on the operator’s website and in its app, if it has one. Likewise, the smiley is required to appear on electronic take-away services. This comes as a reaction to the consumption pattern where still more consumers order take-away through electronic services.

Finally, the new revised system will eliminate the elite smiley rating. According to the Danish Minister of Food, Fisheries and Equal Opportunities, the elite smiley created uneven grounds for food business operators with an aspiration to comply with the food safety rules versus  operators without the same aspiration. 

The changes will be introduced on an ongoing basis. However, they are expected to become effective at end-2021 or early in 2022.