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LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09: A Food Standards Agency rating certificate is pictured in the window of a restaurant on February 9, 2015 in London, England. Claims have been made that some restaurants are ignoring food hygiene standards ratings. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.)[/caption]
These days, you’d be forgiven for assuming that food hygiene standards across the United Kingdom in general would be up to a practically flawless level.
Unfortunately, evidence suggests you’d also be sorely mistaken. According to a report published recently by consumer watchdog Which?, a shocking proportion of restaurants, schools and even hospitals across the country are failing to fulfil their food hygiene obligations. In fact, the problem is so bad that Which? said that when choosing a place to eat, consumers are effectively ‘tossing a coin’ as around half of all food-serving locations could cause food poisoning.
Their report highlighted Enfield in particular as a region in which food hygiene standards appear to be particularly subpar. In total, they found that a worrying 46% of food businesses were failing to comply with the relevant food hygiene standards. In total, Which? carried out a study incorporating 398 local authorities up and down the country, in order to produce a food hygiene map of the UK.
Away from Enfield, Edinburgh was also found to have some of the worst food hygiene standards in Britain, with around 32% of the city’s food businesses complying with food hygiene standards. Consumer watchdogs and public health groups alike are campaigning furiously for higher national food hygiene standards, with around 500,000 people each year being sickened by food poisoning.
Both Brent in London and Rochdale in Greater Manchester were also singled out as poor performers – particularly where follow-up inspections were necessary.
At the slightly more reassuring end of the table, Brentwood in Essex and Cherwell in Oxfordshire scored top marks overall. In these two regions, almost every one of the food businesses inspected was found to be upholding appropriate food hygiene standards.
Speaking on behalf of Which?, executive director Richard Lloyd explained that the public in general continues to assume that the authorities are watching over food standards.
"Consumers expect local authorities to check that food businesses in their area comply with hygiene standards and rigorously enforce the rules,” he said.
"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."
As food businesses in most of the UK are not currently required to display their food hygiene ratings, it is in the best interests of consumers to ask to see them – only those with three of more stars should be considered safe, experts advise.
Image Credits: Food Service Equipment Journal