/ Food & Drink

How safe is your food?

A dirty plate with knife and fork

One year on from the horsemeat scandal have food standards changed? Our latest investigation reveals there’s a huge variation in standards as we highlight the best and poorest performing local authorities…

We expect the food we buy to be safe. Food hygiene is important as food that isn’t handled or cooked properly can lead to contamination or pest infestation. In turn this can lead to illness or, in extreme cases, death.

In our latest investigation we looked at data collected by the Food Standards Agency and used this to rank 395 local authorities for their performance on food safety enforcement. And the results were worrying as local food checks were shown to be in decline.

Cheers for Cherwell, boos for Bexley

The best performing 10 local authorities in the UK were Cherwell, Brentwood, Basingstoke & Dean, Eden, Pendle, Ballymena, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, High Peak and Maldon.

In Cherwell, in the South East, all new food businesses had been visited and assessed for their risk, all planned interventions had been achieved and 97.6% of high- and medium-risk businesses were compliant (scoring 3 and above stars on the hygiene rating scheme).

The worst 10 local authorities in the UK were: Bexley, Ealing, Medway, West Dunbartonshire, Wycombe, Harrow, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Moyle and Enfield.

In Bexley, London – the worst performing local authority in the UK – 80.2% of new businesses had been visited, 87% of interventions had been achieved but only 57.3% of businesses were scoring 3 and above stars in the hygiene rating scheme.

Displaying hygiene ratings upfront

You can check to see if a restaurant is compliant with food hygiene by checking its hygiene rating score. In Wales, all food businesses have to display their hygiene ratings by law. Northern Ireland is also proposing to make display mandatory and Scotland has consulted on extending powers to enable this. However, in England there are no plans for mandatory display.

We want to see it become mandatory across the UK for restaurants to display their hygiene ratings. This way you’ll be able to see at a glance whether the place you plan to eat in is hygienic or not. At present you’d need to check online before choosing your venue – which is not very practical when you’re out and about.

We’re calling on the Government, Food Standards Agency and local authorities to take action. We want to ensure there’s a joined up approach for action that makes the best use of local authorities’ resources and shares expertise. Threats to the food supply chain need to be better anticipated and consumer needs put first with tougher sanctions for those who fail to comply.

Do you check the hygiene rating of restaurants before you eat out? Have you encountered issues with food hygiene and reported it to your local authority in the past?

Do you check restaurant hygiene ratings before you eat out?

No, never (37%, 477 Votes)

Yes, sometimes (25%, 319 Votes)

No, but I will from now on (23%, 298 Votes)

Yes, all the time (15%, 195 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,289

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I recently reported an Indian restaurant to the Food Standards Agency for displaying a better food hygiene rating than on the FSA website, both at the premises and on their website. The prompt response asked me to contact the council responsible for inspection and rating of premises in their area.

I am disappointed by this response and have politely said so in reply to their email. I believe that the FSA should be made aware of misuse of their ratings and need to know how common this is.

Shortly after posting this I received a message from FSA to say that someone from the relevant Borough Council would be visiting the business this week to investigate the issue.

Thanks FSA.