Smiley System explained

Having suffered from severe food poisoning nine years ago in the UK thanks to a pub storing raw chicken with salads, I am always extremely vigilant when it comes to food hygiene standards so the Danish government’s Smiley system is very important to me. It helps me feel confident that the food I consume is kept and prepared well. It also means that I, and other consumers, can make educated choices about the places we use and not be dependent on hearsay of places that are ‘dodgy’ or not.  If I am honest I only ever eat in places with an Elite, even Bispebjerg Hospital has this level!


So how does the system work? Smiley reports were introduced in 2001 in Denmark and in 2008 the Elite Smiley came into being. Food inspectors check, unannounced, all food premises up to three times a year. The frequency is decided by the type of place it is. The report then must be shown prominently in the premises and on their website. Whilst the notes are in Danish the Smiley is pictorial so anyone can understand the system and the rating the establishment has.

Here are the Smileys and what they mean.


 had no remarks

 has emphasised that certain rules must be obeyed,
 issued an injunction order or a prohibition,
 issued an administrative fine, reported the enterprise to the police or withdrew an approval.

Enterprises with hazardous health conditions are closed down until problems are fixed.
Elite Smiley Elite-smiley
The elite-smiley is awarded to enterprises with the best inspection history.

The introduction of the Smiley system has raised standards in food hygiene in Denmark and offers a very transparent system for consumers. in 2010 87% of premises had the happy Smiley, 59% the Elite and only 1.6% the bottom, sour Smiley.

Smileys are displayed in all supermarkets, bakeries, food sellers such as butchers and greengrocers etc, restaurants, takeaways, work, school and hospital canteens and hot dog stands.

To check an establishment’s Smiley you can search here

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