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Which? reveals food hygiene is a postcode lottery

How safe is it to eat out where you live?

Check food hygiene ratings to know how hygienically your food is prepared

The latest shocking research from Which? shows a real difference in the levels of food hygiene compliance around the UK with some local authorities struggling to carry out an effective service.

Around half a million of us suffer food poisoning each year and 12 months on from when we last assessed local authorities on their food enforcement work, we have once again found some areas of the country are falling well below basic food hygiene requirements. In some of the worst performing local authorities, you might as well toss a coin before deciding which restaurant to trust with your health.

Unfortunately, hygiene is not the only area in which food enforcement standards are failing consumers. 

Which? members can read the alarming results of our investigation into what’s really in your takeaway?

Best and worst for food hygiene

The worst performing local authorities we uncovered for food hygiene were Enfield in London and The City of Edinburgh. In Enfield only 54% of high and medium risk food businesses were compliant with food hygiene.

Our research also discovered local authorities are struggling to keep up with hygiene inspections. Rochdale in Greater Manchester and Brent in London managed to achieve fewer than 20% of their planned follow ups when poor hygiene had been detected or when businesses were due for inspections.

The best performing local authorities in the UK are Cherwell in North Oxfordshire and Brentwood in Essex. 

Both of these local authorities ensured nearly 100% of their high and medium risk businesses were compliant with hygiene rules, had rated almost all of their food businesses and carried out all of their planned interventions.

We assessed 398 local authorities using the data they submitted to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on the levels of high and medium risk businesses that are compliant with food hygiene requirements. We also take into account the number of planned interventions achieved and the number of food businesses not yet rated.

Using our analysis, we have created an interactive map that shows how the local authorities around the UK are ensuring food businesses comply with food hygiene rules. Which? members can read the full article in our March magazine.

Food hygiene: how to protect yourself

  • All food businesses have to comply with food hygiene standards whether they are preparing or serving the food but around half a million of us still suffer from food poisoning each year. 
  • As a consumer you can try to protect yourself by checking the food hygiene rating score a business has received and only eating out at places that score three and above (or in Scotland, businesses that score a pass). 
  • The food hygiene rating scheme is the only way to be sure of the cleanliness of the premises, how hygienically food is prepared and stored and the ability of the management. Don’t assume because it looks nice or is pricey it is also hygienic.
  • Currently only food businesses in Wales have to display their ratings, in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland businesses can choose whether they display the rating or not but you can check online.
  • Which? wants to see the display of hygiene ratings to be mandatory in all of the UK. 

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd said:

‘Consumers expect local authorities to check that food businesses in their area comply with hygiene standards and rigorously enforce the rules.

‘Local authorities should do more to make the best use of limited resources, respond effectively to risks across the food supply chain and ensure consumers are adequately protected wherever they live.’

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