When it comes to the kinds of hygiene standards you can get away with in the restaurant business, things have changed…radically! In an era where both the public and government alike are more conscious of the importance of cleanliness and hygiene than ever before, near-flawless standards really are the only acceptable norm.
Whichever way you look at it, those who flout clear and important food hygiene regulations really only have themselves to blame when they find themselves staring down the barrel of legal action. Take for example the highly publicised case of Kams Palace, a Chinese Restaurant which some time ago was prosecuted by Fareham Borough Council for two Health and Safety legislation breaches and no less than five Food Hygiene Regulations offenses.
While carrying out a routine inspection of the place, health officials came across a veritable mountain of breaches and oversights. There was evidence of infestation, equipment was not being kept in a hygiene manner, dirty containers were being used to store food and stock control practices were nonexistent. In addition, staff members clearly hadn’t been provided with any real food hygiene training and much of the machinery in the kitchen was in poor working order.
Exactly how long they’d been getting away with all this will no doubt remain a mystery. The biggest problem with most hygiene and food safety offenses is the way in which they take place entirely out of the view of the customer. As far as diners know, everything that’s going on behind the scenes is as it should be. And while ever the alarm isn’t being raised, the offending restaurants can continue getting away with it.
In the case of Kams Palace, the company’s owners were slapped with a fine of £11,000 and were also forced to pay all legal costs. Suffice to say, they could have saved an absolute fortune simply by doing things right the first time around. Subsequent inspections have shown that enormous improvements have been made and that staff members at the restaurant have received appropriate training. But this is nonetheless the kind of story that makes you think twice about what exactly is going on behind the scenes, in restaurants up and down the United Kingdom.
Public health groups and food safety organisations are still lobbying for official Food Hygiene ratings to be displayed prominently and publicly – a change expected to be implemented in the near future. In the meantime however, time really is running out for restaurants believing they can pull over the public’s eyes for much longer.