In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came into force on 1 January 2005. Apart from exemptions relating to Public Security, Privacy of the Individual, etc, the general principle is to give citizens the right to access information held by Public Authorities unless this can be shown not to be in the public interest.
Similar legislation has existed in the United States and Canada for over 10 years and many authorities there have been able to encourage improvements in such as Food Safety standards by making the results of Inspection available on the Internet. For example New York - http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/rii/index.html
Together with new EEC policies relating to greater transparency, the above factors have motivated the creation of this web site and mobile phone service to enable Local Authorities to make it's information easily available for scrutiny.
For Food Hygiene, Environmental Health Officers are tasked, under the Food Safety Act 1990, with inspecting food businesses according to the Food Standards Agency Code of practice*. Following each inspection, the business is assigned a risk rating which will be used to determine the frequency of future programmed inspections. These will typically take place between 6 months and 3 years, (although some very low risk premises may not be part of the inspection programme but be assigned to an Alternative Enforcement Strategy - AES).
In exceptional circumstances, Environmental Health Officers can order the business to cease trading and take the matter to Court, but naturally they will only do so in exceptional circumstances. It is much better to encourage safe food handling practice and compliance with the legislation.
For further details read the relevant Code of Practice