Food for thought from St Albans hygiene rating results

The Waffle House

The Waffle House - Credit: Archant

WHILE the United Kingdom continues to grapple with the horse meat scandal, compliance officers from the district council have been conducting hundreds of tests on food outlets throughout St Albans to test hygiene standards.

And the result, in some cases, is surprising.

To help people choose where to eat or shop for food with confidence St Albans district council (SADC) is running the national food hygiene rating scheme in partnership with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

When the ratings scheme was launched about a year ago in St Albans, a spokeswoman for the FSA said it was great news for residents as around one million people suffered from food poisoning every year and the main aim was to reduce that number.

Not only does the scheme give information about hygiene standards in restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, hotels, supermarkets and convenience stores, it also covers schools and residential homes.

Their food hygiene rating is then publicised on the FSA’s – Britain’s food watchdog – website. Also, stickers or certificates showing the rating are placed on windows or doors of local eateries.

Businesses are given hygiene ratings ranging from zero to five.

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Those at the lowest end of the scale – zero – must make urgent improvements; a one means that major improvement is necessary; two means improvement is needed; three is generally satisfactory, while four is good and five is very good.

While it is expected that all businesses should achieve the top rating, in St Albans results vary across the board.

For example KFC Express, at The Quadrant, received a two, which means it needs to improve its food hygiene.

Popular St Albans restaurant L’Italiana on French Row has asked the council to reassess its premises after it also received a rating of two, and has since made improvements.

A spokesman for L’Italiana said the business was constrained when it came to repairs because it operates from a listed building, and that “there are nooks and crannies that we can’t do anything about”.

He said that since an inspection in September last year, tears to the vinyl floor had been repaired and he anticipated a top rating when it was next assessed by the compliance officer.

Kamillos restaurant on Marlborough Road, St Albans, has been warned that it needs to make urgent improvements after it scored a zero.

A spokesman for the eaterie said work had been carried out and the business was now awaiting a follow-up visit from the council.

When places are given a very low rating of zero or one, food safety officers can use a number of enforcement tools to ensure consumers are protected, including prohibiting part of an operation or even closing a business down.

Crazy Chicken on Hatfield Road also received the lowest food hygiene rating. At the time of going to press, the Herts Advertiser was unable to contact the manager.

Comfort Hotel on Holywell Hill was also told it needed to improve.

Schools throughout the city scored well, with the majority being rated between three and five.

Hygiene standards in residential homes were also rated highly.

Upmarket Sopwell House Hotel on Cottonmill Lane was found to be “generally satisfactory”, receiving a three. There was no comment on the rating from the hotel, which is renowned for hosting celebrities and football players.

Those receiving the top rating of five are too many to list, but include Zizzi, the Bakehouse and Côte Restaurant on the High Street, the Waffle House on St Michael’s Street, Jamie’s Italian on Chequer Street and St Michael’s Manor Hotel, Fishpool Street.

Local franchises also performed very well, with Subway on Chequer Street, McDonald’s in Griffiths Way, Greggs Plc on St Peter’s Street and Domino’s Pizza on London Road all receiving a five.

Habeeb Khan, store manager at Domino’s St Albans, said: “We pride ourselves on delivering high quality pizzas and take our hygiene and operational standards extremely seriously.

“We are delighted to have been awarded the highest possible rating in the scheme. This is a great achievement and one which is down to the hard work, care and meticulous attention of our team meeting the high standards that are synonymous with Domino’s.”

He explained that in addition to the council inspections, Domino’s own inspectors made unannounced visits to also check high standards were maintained, from food storage and preparation, to clean surfaces.

A spokeswoman for Jamie’s Italian said: “We take health and hygiene very seriously at all of our restaurants and work extremely hard to ensure that we maintain a high standard across the group.”

Joe Gaze, manager of the Waffle House, praised the food hygiene rating scheme, saying it was important consumers knew that where they purchased or ate food was safe, and that it was vital not to cut corners with food safety.

He added: “Getting a five is brilliant. It is fantastic for consumers, as the rating effectively gives them an eye into the kitchen.”