Read any restaurant review in your local or national newspaper and it will tell you about the presentation and the quality of the meal, the culinary skill that has gone in to it, the decoration and comfort of the restaurant, and the customer service.
What you will rarely find is any reference to the hygiene standards and the likelihood that any meal consumed there will leave you with a debilitating illness. Of course, it is entirely likely that the reviewers have, very sensibly, already decided that they wouldn’t go to any restaurant that didn’t have a high hygiene rating. That’s certainly what I would do.
Food safety officers from local councils inspect restaurants and take-aways to check that food is safe to eat. At each inspection, they will be checking how hygienically the food is handled, the physical condition of the premises, and the processes used ensure good hygiene is maintained. That’s the basis on which an assessment is made and a rating is given.
Ratings go from 0 (urgent improvement is required) to 5 (hygiene standards are very good). Every business selling food should be displaying a sticker telling you the rating although, extraordinarily, this is still voluntary! You can also find out the latest ratings for any food premises in the UK at www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk/ where you can also find an App for your phone.
What has shocked me this week is the revelation that a company that describes itself as ‘a top 100 FTSE listed company’, ‘a world leader in online and mobile food ordering’, and ‘on a mission to create the world's greatest food community’ has so little regard for your health.
The company’s platform includes and promotes more than half of the restaurants and take-aways in the country with a ‘0’ rating. But it doesn’t tell you that these restaurants have been independently rated as requiring ‘urgent improvement’ to their hygiene standards if they are to remain in business.
However, you will find ratings for each premise which run from 0* to 6*, with the vast majority rated 4-6*…including those restaurants independently rated ‘0’ for hygiene and food safety. Yet, as industry experts have confirmed, it would be quick, easy and not expensive for the platform to display these independent ratings. I leave you to speculate about the reasons why the company has chosen not to do so.
There are lots of excellent restaurants and take-aways whose owners and staff take food hygiene very seriously and who should not be undermined by those who show such a callous or unprofessional disregard for our health. Choose them for your next meal.
Meanwhile, until this ‘world leader’ takes our health seriously, my advice is JUST don’t EAT!