Hygenic restaurantsWhich? calls for food hygiene scores

10 May 2006

A table set for dinner

Eating out in the UK is a 'postcode lottery' because you have no way of knowing how clean a restaurant or take-away is.

Most people now eat out at least once a week, and new Which? research shows that an overwhelming 97 per cent of diners feel 'entitled to know' how their local restaurants score for hygiene.

But although all local authorities have to inspect food outlets, they don't have to publish the results - and only around 2 per cent currently do so.

Scores on the doors

Which? Chief Policy Adviser Sue Davies said: 'Publication of hygiene scores - on council websites as well as 'scores on the doors'- is a win-win for everyone. People would be able to eat out with more confidence and food outlet standards would be forced up as a result.'

We surveyed more than 2,000 people across the UK; 87 per cent wanted hygiene information displayed before they entered the restaurant - 'scores on the doors' - and 90 per cent thought scores should be available online.

Last year, there were about 80,000 cases of food poisoning reported in the UK, in total. In our survey, 15 per cent thought that they, or someone in their household, had been ill as a direct result of eating out in the last year.

Councils that publish

Currently, the following councils have published hygiene scores online: Bath and North East Somerset ; Camden ; Glasgow ; Greenwich; Hammersmith and Fulham; Highland; Lincolnshire ; Norwich ; South Cambridgeshire ; Southwark and various councils within Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Which? is calling on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to administer one central website where all councils would publish full inspection reports so consumers could go to one site to find the hygiene score of any restaurant.

One website would also ensure that the results were displayed in a consistent format making it easy for consumers to understand the figures.

The FSA said it supported any move to help consumers make informed choices about food and to 'increase transparency' in hygiene standards.

A spokesman said: 'The FSA is encouraging local authorities to make public the hygiene scores of food businesses. The agency is planning to trial a variety of schemes with the aim of rolling out a consistent, nationwide programme to provide this information to consumers. These trials, involving over 40 local authorities, will begin in the autumn.'