Australian mayor pushes for mandatory food safety rankings to be displayed at NSW eateries

There are  many benefits to restaurant inspection disclosure or grades.

Those benefits are negated when the public display is voluntary.

scores_doors_featureGet 2-out-of-5 stars, don’t post the sign.

Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and hundreds of other cities have mandatory disclosure.

Mayor Khal Asfour in the southwest Sydney suburb of Bankstown says food safety ratings should be mandatory.

Scores on Doors, launched by NSW Food Authority in 2010, rates eateries out of five based on their annual food safety audits.

They are then handed a slick certificate to post up in view of customers.

However Bankstown is pushing for the scheme, which is currently voluntary, to be mandated across all eligible food outlets.

A similar push is on by local councils England.

The Food Authority falls under NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair’s portfolio.

However The Express’s request for comment was directed to Food Authority chief executive Dr Lisa Szabo.

When asked whether she would support mandating Scores on Doors state wide, Dr Szabo said the authority preferred to keep it voluntary.

“Displaying a Scores on Doors certificate can be a marketing advantage for businesses that comply with food safety legislation because it can provide a point of difference from competitors,” she said.

Fifty three of 152 councils in NSW have signed up to implement the program.

In south west Sydney only Bankstown and Liverpool are currently members.

The authority’s NSW Food Safety Strategy has set a target of 75 per cent business participation by 2021.

Bankstown Council has signed up 33 retail food businesses out of about 600 this financial year.

The scheme excludes supermarkets, delicatessens or greengrocers, service stations, convenience stores, mobile food vans and temporary markets.

Which further undermines the system.

Chicken Heaven owner Paul Hong, who proudly displays a five star rating in the window of the Chester Hill takeaway, agreed the program should be compulsory.

“Yes. Based on the individual [business] keeping up their cleanliness, hygiene and all that required in the food industry,” he said.

It’s like Australians are marketing food safety: ‘Scores on doors is a fantastic marketing tool’

The New South Wales Food Authority Scores on Doors program (that’s the state that includes Sydney, in Australia) sees shops judged on hygiene and safety.

scores_doors_featureThey then receive a score out of five — five being the best — which is displayed on the shop window.

So far, 40 businesses throughout Wollondilly have signed up including Royal Char-Grill Chickens at The Oaks.

Owner Jim Tzortzis believed the program would help attract customers.

‘‘It’s a no-brainer that the business with a five star safety rating hanging over the front door will be the one most attractive to customers,’’ he said.

‘‘We know how hard we work to have high food hygiene and safety standards and now everyone else does too.’’

Mayor Col Mitchell urged all eligible food businesses in the shire to get on sign up to the program.

‘‘The scoring system is based upon the inspections that are already conducted by council’s environmental health officers,’’ he said.

‘‘This rewards businesses who do the right thing, and encourages others to aspire to do the same.

“The Scores on Doors initiative is a fantastic marketing tool for each of the areas within our shire to promote the standard and quality of the hygiene and food safety of local food businesses.’’

More demand for restaurant inspection info

From San Jose to South Australia, locals are adopting restaurant inspection disclosure or grading programs to inform diners of recent ratings.

scores_doors_featureBeginning in Jan. 2016, San Jose restaurants will adopt the Toronto-like green-yellow-red display system.

In the state of South Australia (that’s where Adelaide is) 10 local Councils have signed up to a voluntary Scores on Doors Pilot Program that will test a new Food Safety Rating scheme for cafes, restaurants and pubs.

Director of Food Safety and Nutrition at SA Health, Fay Jenkins said food safety rating schemes were used all over the world to help consumers make informed choices about where they decided to buy their food.

“Customers have a right to know that the food they buy has been stored in a clean, safe environment and prepared by people with the appropriate food handling skills,” Dr Jenkins said.

“South Australian businesses can start displaying a star rating, calculated using the results of their routine food safety inspection undertaken by local Councils throughout the pilot program,” she said.

“Encouraging businesses to display their star rating aims to improve standards in the food service industry and will also help to improve public health by reducing the risk of food poisoning.”


Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009.

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information.

Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.


The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.


Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

Scores on Doors trial set for New South Wales

The NSW Food Authority has announced a year-long voluntary trial of the Scores on Doors program will be rolled out across the Australian state of NewSouth Wales.

"Scores on Doors offers businesses a fantastic opportunity to show customers just how seriously they take food hygiene and the results they have achieved," said Katrina Hodgkinson, Minister for Primary Industries.

"Certificates from the voluntary program will be displayed near doorways of participating retail food outlets so customers will be able to see just how well restaurants, cafés or other outlets have performed during their food safety inspection."

Under the Scores on Doors trial program, participating retail food outlets are assigned a star rating dependent upon their level of performance. Top rating businesses receive a five star rating, with four and three stars also awarded to businesses that perform well and comply with the requirements of the Food Standards Code.

Participation is voluntary though through the program businesses will have the opportunity to promote and advertise their food safety performance.

Restaurant redemption: UK kebab shop owner cleans up

Who hasn’t made mistakes? Mine are documented in all sorts of ways and places.

Resat Gundogdu, a U.K. restaurant owner who was fined £24,000 after E. coli was found in his kebab shop, has now been praised for his impeccable hygiene standards, earning the maximum five stars in his latest Scores On The Doors hygiene inspection.

This is Sussex reports Mr Gundogdu pleaded guilty to six charges of failing to maintain proper standards in food hygiene and health and safety, when he appeared at Crawley Magistrates’ Court last November.

The court was told how council officers found high levels of the bacteria on food surfaces, taps, food boards and floor tiles.

But in just over a year, Mr Gundogdu, 51, has transformed the restaurant and even renamed it, calling it Real Barbecue and Bar.

"I know I have made mistakes. All I can do is apologize for what happened last year. I have apologised to customers about the way the restaurant was kept."

Now, Mr Gundogdu is looking forward to being presented with his five star Scores On The Door window sticker and certificate, in the new year.

“I will be making sure I put my sticker proudly in my window. What matters is I have learnt from my mistakes."

Scores on doors for all Australia?

Lord Young told the U.K. government last month that he welcomed the Food Standards Agency’s decision to “drop the unfortunate title ‘scores on doors’” to describe restaurant inspection disclosure.

The POHMEs (Prisoner of Her Majesty’s Exile) have done their own review of the national food safety system and recommended that scores on doors be rolled out across Australia.

Good for them.

The national food safety review states that two-thirds of the 5.4 million cases of gastroenteritis in Australia each year can be attributed to food poisoning from restaurants, takeaway outlets, caterers and cafes (in a population of 21.4 million).

But, according to The Australian, it warns that the existing 2003 guidelines "may not provide the guidance needed to develop an effective food safety management approach for retail/food service."

Under the existing national rules, local councils inspect food outlets to check they are complying with basic standards for food hygiene and preparation. The safety standards are "outcome-based," replacing prescriptive regulations in each state.

But NSW, Victoria and Queensland have since broken away from the national system, imposing "add-on" requirements for staff working in food service and retailing to attend food training courses.

"State and local governments in some Australian jurisdictions are developing or piloting voluntary schemes that assign a ‘food safety rating’ based on routine inspection outcomes," the consultation paper, prepared for the Food Regulation Standing Committee of federal, state and territory food ministers, says.

"These approaches may provide a ‘positive’ incentive by publicising good food safety performance."

NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria already use websites to "name and shame" companies fined over food safety breaches — yet Victoria has only three prosecutions on its website, compared to 1821 penalty notices in NSW.

Restaurant inspection is a snapshot in time and disclosure is no panacea. But it can boost the overall culture of food safety, hold operators accountable, and is a way of marketing food safety so that consumers can choose.

Wales E. coli professor says make public health a priority

Wales has some money issues.

But bacteriologist Professor Hugh Pennington, who chaired a public inquiry into the South Wales Valleys E. coli O157 outbreak in 2005, which claimed the life of five-year-old Mason Jones, will tell the National Assembly’s health committee this week that public health needs to be spared from expected budget cuts.

He is asking for councils to be given enough money to spare experienced environmental health officers.

Pennington said earlier in the week,

“My immediate concern is that in the implementation of financial reductions by the shedding of staff, policy will be driven by human resource departments rather than the need to retain experience and institutional memory.”

That’s a common theme I’ve heard over the years in trying to figure out why all these foodborne illness outbreaks keep happening, especially in processed foods which should have the poop processed out of them: companies just lack people who know what they’re doing when it comes to food safety.

But I have to take issue with the good professor when he says the 2000 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario (that’s in Canada) which sickened 2,300 and killed seven was caused because of lax water supply safety checks due to budget cuts.

In his health committee paper Prof Pennington said the event in Canada “provides evidence that rather than maintaining the systems that protected the population from E. coli O157, the Canadian approach to managing budget cuts contributed to the regulatory failures that led to this massive outbreak.”

Budgetary issues may have been a contributing factor, but more money doesn’t mean people will do what they’re supposed to do

The Walkerton Commission of Inquiry, led by Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor, concluded:

• Seven people died, and more than 2,300 became ill. Some people, particularly children, may endure lasting effects.

• The contaminants, largely E. coli O157:H7 and Campylobacter jejuni, entered the Walkerton system through Well 5 on or shortly after May 12, 2000.

• The primary, if not the only, source of the contamination was manure that had been spread on a farm near Well 5. The owner of this farm followed proper practices and should not be faulted.

• The outbreak would have been prevented by the use of continuous chlorine residual and turbidity monitors at Well 5.

• The failure to use continuous monitors at Well 5 resulted from short-comings in the approvals and inspections programs of the Ministry of the Environment (MOE). The Walkerton Public Utilities Commission (PUC) operators lacked the training and expertise necessary to identify either the vulnerability of Well 5 to surface contamination or the resulting need for continuous chlorine residual and turbidity monitors.

• The scope of the outbreak would very likely have been substantially reduced if the Walkerton PUC operators had measured chlorine residuals at Well 5 daily, as they should have, during the critical period when contamination was entering the system.

• For years, the PUC operators engaged in a host of improper operating practices, including failing to use adequate doses of chlorine, failing to monitor chlorine residuals daily, making false entries about residuals in daily operating records, and misstating the locations at which microbiological samples were taken. The operators knew that these practices were unacceptable and contrary to MOE guidelines and directives.

• The MOE’s inspections program should have detected the Walkerton PUC’s improper treatment and monitoring practices and ensured that those practices were corrected.

• On Friday, May 19, 2000, and on the days following, the PUC’s general manager concealed from the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Health Unit and others the adverse test results from water samples taken on May 15 and the fact that Well 7 had operated without a chlorinator during that week and earlier that month. Had he disclosed either of these facts, the health unit would have issued a boil water advisory on May 19, and 300 to 400 illnesses would have been avoided.

• In responding to the outbreak, the health unit acted diligently and should not be faulted for failing to issue the boil water advisory before Sunday, May 21. However, some residents of Walkerton did not become aware of the boil water advisory on May 21. The advisory should have been more broadly disseminated.

• The provincial government’s budget reductions led to the discontinuation of government laboratory testing services for municipalities in 1996. In implementing this decision, the government should have enacted a regulation mandating that testing laboratories immediately and directly notify both the MOE and the Medical Officer of Health of adverse results. Had the government done this, the boil water advisory would have been issued by May 19 at the latest, thereby preventing hundreds of illnesses.

Yesterday, Pennington told the Assembly’s health committee the failure of some firms to comply with basic hygiene legislation is “essentially a disgrace.”

“For any business not to be doing what they are legally obliged to, which is having a HACCP plan or something like it, I think it’s essentially a disgrace. I am not yet convinced that we have got to the point where we can say that all small businesses have got a HACCP running which an environmental health officer should be satisfied with.”

Consumer Focus Wales’ Senior Director Maria Battle took a different approach, telling the committee food businesses should be legally required to display their hygiene rating on the premises.

The Food Standards Agency is currently developing the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme, also known as ‘Scores on the Doors,’ but the scheme only allows for voluntary display. Consumers will have to visit a website to find out about poorly performing businesses.

It’s not Scores on Doors if the results are not publicly displayed. Regulatory, financial, shock and shame, all of these approaches should be explored to enhance the food safety culture of any food business.

UK: Restaurant receives Michelin stars, but no food safety stars

The Star Inn restaurant in North Yorkshire has been closed after more than 80 customers developed symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea, reports

The Star Inn has won a raft of prestigious awards since 1996, including a Michelin star, the Egon Ronay Gastropub of the Year title and, most recently, The Good Pub Guide County Dining Pub of the Year for 2010.

Jacquie Pern, who jointly runs the venue with her husband, leading chef Andrew Pern, said yesterday,
“We can confirm that The Star restaurant is temporarily closed as a precautionary measure. Early indications are consistent with a viral incident. We are taking the matter very seriously and are co-operating with the health authorities and look forward to returning to our normal food standard as soon as possible.”

A spokesman for Ryedale District Council said,

“More than 80 people are known to have developed symptoms after eating at the restaurant between October 18 and October 28. A number of restaurant staff are also known to be affected by symptoms.”

Upon reading the story I immediately went to Scores on the Doors website, which lists a restaurant’s food safety-star rating based on the most recent inspection. The Star Inn is located in an area of North Yorkshire which appears to not yet be registered with the Scores on the Doors programme. Although Michelin stars are nice, I’d rather know the restaurant’s food safety rating.

Inspection results at the door, but in what form?

This morning, while drinking morning tea and perusing my Google Alerts, I came across a few stories on restaurant inspection disclosure systems. Another district in Connecticut has adopted symbols to aid consumer interpretation of inspection scores, while a city in New Mexico proposes changing from a pass-fail system to letter grades.

Stamford, CT will be the third district in the state to use symbols to disclose restaurant inspection results to the public, reports the Stamford Advocate Online. While Farmington Valley and Norwalk districts use waiter and lighthouse symbols respectively, Stamford will use smiling chef faces.

Three beaming hats is excellent and translates into a score from 90 to 100 with no four-point (the most serious) hygiene or storage violations. Two hats is acceptable and either mean a score of 80 to 96 with up to one four-point violation and less than four risk factors. One hat indicates poor levels of compliance with a score below 80 or more than two four-point violations or more than four risk factor violations…The idea has been in the works for six years, health department director Dr. Johnnie Lee said.

Results for Stamford are also available online, here.

Meanwhile, restaurants in Albuquerque, NM may be changing from a pass-fail disclosure at the door system to an A, B, C system, reports

Go to any other large city and you’ll see lots of restaurants with big “A”s or “B”s in their windows. Sometimes you’ll see a “C”. In fact, many chowhounds will insist that an ethnic restaurant graded “A” can’t really be all that good or authentic – it’s the B and C ones worth seeking out. To bring the Duke City in line with all of these other progressive urban areas, it has been proposed that we, too, use the ABC method. And let the battle begin!

It’s the New Mexico Restaurant Association vs. City of Albuquerque and city councillor Trudy Jones! Each has their own talking points, arguments, and rebuttals. Here they are in a nutshell:

City of Albuquerque: “The old rules are outdated and behind the times and we must change them.”

NMRA: “The new rules embrace new technology but badge restaurants for six months based on inspection results that were likely fixed on the spot.”

Why doesn’t someone ask consumers, operators and inspectors which disclosure method they like?

Marketing the hell out of restaurant inspection results

That’s what Wayne Strong, president of Ye Old Walkerville Bed & Breakfast in Windsor, ON wants to do with his latest inspection score, reports the Windsor Star.

The star-rating system called Safe Food Counts will be rolled out over the next few months as businesses [in Windsor-Essex County] are inspected.

Strong embraces the public disclosure system, saying,

"Once you are, as a facility, able to get five stars, market the hell out of it. A community that is enlightened about the system will look for a five-star place. I welcome this. I think for people who do the right thing, this is an affirmation of what I’m doing is right."

Strong’s got the right attitude. Establishments that have nothing to hide will embrace the public disclosure system, and see it as an opportunity to market food safety.

Some restaurant workers like Derek Dulyk, of Market Place restaurant in the Holiday Inn Select, are weary of the system, and feel a description of infractions should be posted along side star-ratings at an establishment,

"If you get a four over a five star because a paper towel dispenser is jammed, if it’s something as minor as that, I think your customers should be aware"

There are many systems to communicate inspection results to the public. Some use disclosure at the door, others websites. Either way consumers are interested in this information, and it’s a good thing when it’s made publicly available.