How clean is your local restaurant or takeaway? St Albans hygiene ratings revealed

Dirty utensils in the kitchen

Dirty utensils in the kitchen - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

One in 10 food places in St Albans are failing to meet acceptable hygiene standards, the Herts Advertiser can reveal.

A study of more than 250 inspections carried out in the last 12 months by the district council has found that while almost half received the highest score possible, some are still failing to take the issue seriously enough.

The scores were particularly poor for take-aways and sandwich shops, with five out of the 34 checked on the receiving end of a mark of two or fewer out of five, which is classed as being non-compliant, and an overall average of just 3.3 out of five.

Some of the issues identified at those places include poorly-cleaned surfaces and equipment, cross contamination of raw meats and fresh food causing a risk of E:coli poisoning, out-of-date food, food stored in carrier and bin bags, food stored at the wrong temperatures, mouldy food and poorly-trained staff.

Millions of pounds are spent in our eateries every single year and local authorities are tasked with carrying out spot-checks to make sure the food is served and prepared to acceptable hygiene standards.

Five years ago, the Food Standards Agency introduced a nationally standardised rating scheme, from zero to five stars, and took the step of not only publishing the rating, but the report as well.

Hygiene bosses say this has dramatically reduced the number of places failing to meet standards.

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In the last 12 months, 264 places have been inspected, with an average rating of 4. Four establishments have received a zero-rating and councils do have it within their power to close poorly performing places and take legal action.

The cleanest establishment types were schools, colleges and university and supermarkets, averaging 4.8, followed by hospital, childcare and caring premises (4.7) and supermarkets (4.5).

After take-aways and sandwich shops, the next worst areas were pubs, bars and nightclubs (3.6) and retailers - other (3.9).

Mike Lovelady, district council head of legal, democratic and regulatory services said: “We regularly inspect restaurants, food shops and takeaways to check that they comply with legal requirements for food hygiene. Where businesses are not performing well with regard to food hygiene, we will work with them to improve their standards. If they fail to meet required hygiene standards, we have the power to close the premises and to take legal action against the proprietor.

“As a member of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, we give each inspected premises a food hygiene score which is then published online. The scores range from zero, where urgent improvement is required, to five for very good. If you are planning to eat out or to order a takeaway, remember to check the ratings on the FSA’s website before selecting somewhere suitable.

“There are plenty of places to choose from as more than 90 per cent of the food establishments inspected in St Albans district have a rating of three or more.”

The ratings

A decade ago several councils started to introduce their own food hygiene rating schemes.

Within a few years several other authorities had followed suit, prompting the Food Safety Agency to introduce a standard test in 2010 so that places across the country could be compared with each other.

The aim is to help people choose where to eat out or shop for food by providing information about food hygiene standards at restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways, hotels supermarkets and other shops selling food directly to consumers.

According to the FSA, businesses that score zero tend to have a history of serious problems and are likely to be performing poorly in the three areas food safety officers inspect, which are:

- How hygienically food is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored.

- The cleanliness, layout, lighting and ventilation of the building.

- The systems in place to make sure food is safe for consumption.

Each rating means the following: 5 = very good; 4 = good; 3 = generally satisfactory; 2 = improvement necessary; 1 = major improvement necessary; 0 = urgent improvement necessary

Poor hygiene standards can be a major contributor to food poisoning.

Zero performing venues

Me Old Chinese Restaurant, Hatfield Road;

Murgano’s, Victoria Street;

Sea Salt, Redbourn High Street;

Viceroy of India, Old Watford Road