According to new research by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), only a third (34%) of us regularly check food hygiene ratings before eating in a restaurant or takeaway. With an estimated 4.3 million meals expected to be eaten out over this festive period, FSA is urging people to check a restaurant’s food hygiene rating before booking this Christmas.
The research, released ahead of the expected Christmas spike in restaurant bookings, found that although food hygiene and safety were of concern for 37% of people, only 6% said that they actively consider the food hygiene rating when deciding where to eat. Other priorities included:
quality/type of food (58%)
own experience of the place (32%)
good service (21%)
Mark O’Neill, senior advisor, local authority policy and delivery, Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said: ‘We are pleased to see that so many food businesses in Northern Ireland are already compliant with the Food Hygiene Rating Act, which came into operation in October, making it mandatory for food businesses to display their hygiene ratings. This means that around 90% of businesses should now be displaying hygiene information on a green and black sticker somewhere easy to spot outside of their premises. We expect that consumers will be pleased with this development as our recent survey showed that 95% of people in Northern Ireland believe that businesses should have to display their ratings, which now they do.
We are now urging people to look for hygiene ratings and choose restaurants which score three or above this Christmas.
Starting from, Friday 7 October, people in Northern Ireland will find it easier to see the food hygiene rating of places they eat out or buy food, as food businesses will now have to display their rating sticker by law.
The Food Hygiene Rating Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 and associated regulations have come into force, and this new legislation means that the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is now mandatory, replacing the voluntary scheme run since the end of 2011 by district councils and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
No matter what the rating of the food business, they will have to by law display the rating sticker given by the district council following inspection. This can range from ‘5’ which means the food hygiene standards are very good, down to ‘0’ where urgent improvement is necessary. This instant and visible hygiene rating information will help people choose where to eat out or shop for food, including restaurants, pubs, cafes, takeaways as well as supermarkets, other food shops and hospitals, care homes and schools.
The FSA has built a case for mandation in England using evidence from Wales where display is mandatory and where there has been an increased positive impact on hygiene standards compared with England. It is also exploring how a viable statutory scheme could be delivered in the future in line with the FSA’s Regulating our Future programme. In the meantime the current voluntary scheme in England is being aligned with the statutory schemes in Wales and N Ireland as far as possible without legislative requirements.
An E. coli outbreak linked to a Belfast restaurant has been described as “major public health crisis” by Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency (PHA).
The PHA said there are now 20 confirmed cases and 150 suspected cases of food poisoning following an investigation at Flicks restaurant at Cityside Mall.
Six people have been hospitalised since the start of the outbreak, but most have since been discharged.
Dr Michael Devine from the PHA said it was NI’s worst ever E. coli outbreak. and told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show on Tuesday that the agency was “not in anyway underestimating the scale of what we’re dealing with here.”
Eight children under the age of 14 are among the suspected cases to date, he said.
A separate E. coli outbreak in August affected four people who ate in the same restaurant on York Street.
At the time, the PHA and Belfast City Council environmental health officers carried out an investigation and all tests on the restaurant were negative.
The owner of Flicks, Michael McAdam, said there was “no definitive evidence” in August that the four people had contracted the poisoning at his restaurant.
“I would not dream of opening the doors of a restaurant if we were doing something wrong,” he said.
“It would be commercial suicide and apart from that to endanger people would be ridiculous.”
He added that hygiene in the kitchen met the highest standards.
Almost a month after an elderly patient died in a Northern Ireland hospital and three others were sickened from Listeria, health trusts have been advised to stop serving sandwiches from a specific food company.
Following the outbreak, the trust carried out a review of food supplier and distribution chains with the Food Standards Agency and Environmental Health.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said preliminary results of tests on sandwiches provided to inpatients indicated low levels of listeria were present although he stressed these were within the legal limits.
In response to an Assembly question on the matter, he said: “As a precautionary measure the Northern Trust decided not to serve sandwiches from a particular supplier until investigations have been completed.
In 2008, three patients died during a listeria outbreak at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
Also in 2008, 23 people – primarily elderly – died from Listeria in Maple Leaf deli meats in Canada. Maybe the sandwiches could be heated?
Maybe the meal-planner geniuses decided it would be OK to give sick old folks cold-cuts or deli meat to eat. That’s part of what happened in Canada in 2008 when 23 people – elderly with pre-existing medical conditions, many already in institutions — died from listeria-laden Maple Leaf deli meats.
Yesterday, an elderly patient died in an outbreak of listeria in two Northern Ireland hospitals.
The pensioner was one of two patients in the Antrim Area Hospital that contracted the foodborne bacteria. Another acquired the bug in the Causeway Hospital on the region’s north coast.
The patient who died was already ill but listeria has been confirmed as a contributory cause of death.
Both hospitals are managed by the Northern Trust, which has declared an outbreak.
Seven children in County Armagh, who all attend Holly House nursery in Lurgan, have been infected with E. coli O157, the Public Health Agency has confirmed.
A mother whose child is at the nursery said,
"It is very worrying because of the seriousness of E. coli. But as far as I know none of the children seems to be very ill. I could not fault the nursery. They are managing very well and have provided lots of information and support."
"Locally, it is a surprise that an outbreak of E. coli has taken place," said SDLP councillor for the area, Mary McAlinden.