Our research has found that food hygiene has become something of a postcode lottery for diners. People are unknowingly taking risks with their health simply by choosing to eat out in the wrong area.
We’ve been crunching through tens of thousands of food hygiene ratings from the Food Standards Agency in more than 2,000 postcodes in England, Northern Ireland and Wales. And now we’re revealing the postcodes where bad ratings far outweigh the good.
All places that serve food are inspected and given a hygiene rating on a six point scale – zero being the worst and five the best. A rating of three is ‘generally satisfactory’.
The best and worst food hygiene ratings
Eateries inspected in the DA7 postcode in Bexley averaged a rating of just 2.6. In fact, almost half the premises inspected in this particular postcode area had a score of two or less. By contrast, Birmingham’s B35 postcode topped the table with a near-perfect average rating of 4.9.
The scores for big high-street chains were typically three or above – that is ‘generally satisfactory’ or better. But some chains had a greater proportion of branches with poor ratings than others.
For instance, 29% of Chicken Cottage branches, 26% of Dixy Chicken branches and 24% of Perfect Pizza branches inspected had ratings of three or less. In the restaurant category, one in five La Tasca outlets inspected had a rating less than ‘generally satisfactory’, while one in seven Little Chefs inspected had low ratings.
A number of convenience stores serving food were also rated – of those inspected, a fifth of Best In/One, Costcutter, Premier and Londis outlets were rated less than three.
However, some major chains received no poor scores at all, including Eat, Carluccio’s, Zizzi, Premier Inn and Marriot Hotels.
Do hygiene ratings affect where you eat?
In our survey, three quarters of you told us you’d avoid eating at places with a rating lower than three. But it’s not always easy to tell the rating of an eatery, as they aren’t obliged to publicly display their ratings.
At Which?, we think that any places serving food should display their hygiene score prominently – and 95% of people we surveyed agreed. At present, if eateries don’t display their score voluntarily, the only way to find out is by searching on the Food Standards Agency website.
Before carrying out this research, I have to admit I’d never really considered checking a restaurant’s hygiene rating before visiting. Do you check hygiene scores before you eat out? Do you think places that serve food should be obliged to display their hygiene ratings?