Worst areas for hygiene scores in UK restaurants

In a rating of restaurant hygiene based on public inspection scores in the UK, the SE25 area of Croydon has been listed as one of the “worst areas,” as a takeaway in Selhurst area, just outside of the SE25 postcode, received the highest food safety fine ever levied by Croydon Magistrates — £30,000 after failing to meet standards since 2005.

Consumer group Which? Magazine collected data from thousands of local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2011 onwards.

East London Lines reports the results come from individual councils’ food and safety inspections carried out in accordance with guidelines set by the rest.inspection.disclosure.ukFood Standards Agency.

The guidelines provide a 0-6 scale, scoring food outlets from 0 meaning “urgent improvement necessary,” to 5 meaning ‘very good.’

Although the subheading of the “Which?” article uses the word “eateries,” the data includes food outlets such as takeaways and restaurants, but also schools and hospitals.

“Which?” reported that 44 per cent of the 85 inspected outlets in the SE25 area of Croydon scored less than 3. The average score for Croydon was 2.65.

The worst in the country was Bexley with an average score of 2.62.

East London Lines spoke to the Food Safety Team at Croydon Council who said that “there are many reasons why the average ratings vary from place to place”.

One of the suggested reasons is that there may be variation in the way in which people are grading. The spokesman said that some people may be “tougher than others.”

Croydon Council stressed that “whilst those premises with low scores do have things that they should improve they are not considered to be an immediate health risk.”

When asked about the high percentage of low scores, The Food Safety Team commented that a low score does not necessarily reflect the hygiene larry.the.cable.guy.health.inspectorof premises.

Lots of smaller businesses and owners who do not have English as their first language often do not have a proper written health and safety system and “this prevents them scoring over one on the hygiene rating system, regardless of how good they are.”

Croydon Council said that they are working with these businesses to improve their grading.

East London Lines found that the claims published by “Which?” do not correlate with information on “Scores On the Doors,” although both use council’s FSA data as their source.

Food safety improvements in Aussie (NSW) restaurants

Restaurants and food outlets in New South Wales (that’s the Australian state where Sydney is) have improved their food safety standards, at least according to the state government.

More retail food businesses are complying with laws that protect consumers from foodborne illnesses, Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said on Monday.

The annual local government activity report for 2010/11 put the overall compliance rate at 94.2 per cent, an increase of two percent on last year.

It means the rate of non-compliance has decreased from 10 per cent in 2008/09 to 5.8 per cent in 2010/11, Ms Hodgkinson said.

"It’s clear that food businesses are trying harder to comply with food safety standards but there is a small group that aren’t taking their responsibility to diners seriously. Enforcement penalties such as penalties, seizures and prosecutions are still necessary.

"We’re expecting that the introduction of the Food Safety Supervisors initiative will further encourage businesses to comply. To date 28,720 Food Safety Supervisors have been trained, dramatically improving food safety knowledge and awareness in food businesses across NSW. In addition, our Scores on Doors scheme will help to reward businesses that meet the food safety standards by giving them a way to show their customers how well they have performed.”

The 2010-11 Local Government Activity Report showed that:

Councils undertook a total of 61,046 inspections of the 38,475 high and medium risk retail food businesses across NSW that required inspection.

5.8 per cent of businesses inspected required ongoing intervention from their council – a decrease from 7.8 per cent in the previous year.

Councils issued 6,914 warning letters and 1,455 improvements notices during 2010-11.

Councils issued 1,374 penalty notices, a decrease of 32 per cent on the previous year.

Councils investigated 98.8 per cent of the 4,341 food complaints received by consumers.

The full Local Government Activity Report is available on the NSW Food Authority website – http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/industry/audits-inspectionscompliance/ localgovernment/activity-reports/

Scores on Doors will have to wait for Welsh

There’s always a difference between saying there are food safety standards and actually being able to prove such standards are followed.

Which leads into that food safety culture thing.

Consumer Focus Wales said today the public has been misled by promises a new food hygiene ratings system would be up and running this year, and that it could now be another 12 months before people were able to find out how clean their local takeaway, restaurant, pub or supermarket is.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced last month that a new website designed to carry the hygiene ratings of every food business would be up and running by October 1.

But the agency has admitted existing environmental health inspection reports will not be uploaded to the site.

Instead, information will only be added as and when councils carry out inspections of premises after launch day.

An FSA spokesman, who was apparently previously employed at the Ministry of Silly Walks, said data would be added “at a fairly substantial rate of progress” once the process used to gather information is standardised.

“The Food Standards Agency agrees that information on the hygiene rating of a food business should be made available to the public at the earliest opportunity. However, to be meaningful, this information needs to be accurate and understandable and based on judgements that are consistent from one business to another. This will provide the data to enable the public to make an informed choice about where they eat and buy food from. … The agency and local authorities seek to ensure that the scheme is introduced in a sustainable way, but are mindful of the practicalities it involves and have accepted that it is not feasible to launch a scheme in the autumn with all Welsh food businesses listed from the outset.”

Sharon Mills, who led calls for the scheme following the E.coli O157 outbreak in 2005 that claimed the life of her son Mason Jones, said the agency appeared to be putting the rights of businesses before the public’s right to know, adding,

“I agree that the information has got to be correct, but I think their argument is complete and utter nonsense.”

She’s right. Bureau-types could fritter for years trying to get everything right. Get it up, get it out, then make it better.

The agency said it was undertaking public consultation to help it decide how to express the ratings on the new website.

But although the scores will be available on the Internet, businesses will not be forced to display them on their premises.

I’d rather insert pencils into my eyeballs than listen to this drivel.

Scores on doors better than on-line restaurant inspection reports

As the New York City Health Department invited public comment on proposed rules and outlined procedures to guide the implementation of New York City’s new restaurant grading system, Don Sapatkin of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported this morning that most food establishments don’t publicize even their most positive inspection reports, and no government in the Philadelphia region requires that they be tacked up for easy viewing like a menu.

But more are going online. With the new Camden County database that went live Thursday night, the outcome of inspections are now posted for the vast majority of restaurants in the eight-county region.

Ben Chapman, a food-safety specialist at North Carolina State University said,

"Cross-contamination and hand-washing violations and temperatures," thorough cooking, hot foods kept hot and cold foods kept cold – these are the most important risk factors for food-borne illness. Dirty bathrooms matter less.

Chapman, who reviewed the new Camden County Web site at The Inquirer’s request, was impressed that the posted reports include the temperatures of various foods found by the inspector – along with the inspector’s comments, which are necessary to make sense of the numbers.

Doug Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University who operates barfBlog, which, despite its name, is a blog written mostly by academics, said that demand for on-line inspection disclosure is often high initially and then tapers off. Because of the hodgepodge of regulations and the complexity of the reports, Powell said, it is far more useful to place highly visible, simple letter or color grades at the restaurant location. A-B-C grades are used in Los Angeles and will begin in New York City in July.

Detailed inspection reports for restaurants and other food establishments are now posted in searchable databases for most of the region.

The language differs significantly from place to place, and can be hard to interpret. And food safety experts caution that inspections are merely a snapshot in time.

About scores on doors in Asian restaurants in France

This is a blog post from our friend in France, Albert Amgar, translated by Kansas State French professor Amy Hubbell and the students in FREN 530: French Translation.

Labels, logos, and scores on doors have come up several times on this blog.

According to leParisien.fr on February 24, 2010 in "Asian restaurants are asked to take more care with their cooking," the Asian restaurant union is asking 12,000 caterers and restaurateurs to improve their food safety and quality. Their goal is to improve their ratings and it is not being met.

The “Quality Asia” label was created in October 2005 and it is given to Asian, Chinese, Japanese or Vietnamese restaurants and caterers whose cleanliness is certified. Five years later, only 12 addresses in the Parisian region and 5 in the rest of France (primarily in the North – AA) have been awarded this label. That’s a small number considering there are 12,000 food professionals in France and 8,000 in the Parisian region alone.

According to the website of the Asian Restaurant and Catering Union, the first audit is performed by an independent agency that checks the establishments’ performance and gives certification.

What is included in the Quality Asia Label?
– Welcoming guests according to traditions
– Offering and cooking Asian flavors from different regions according to European regulations
– Following the guidelines on the Quality Charter
– Submitting to a quality control every two years
– Making comment cards available to clients

What are the criteria for quality?

The first audit checks 142 control points of which 30 are reserved for the kitchen. These points are aimed at the welcome, the quality of management, service, delivery, proportion of quality to price, general cleanliness, general ambiance, facilities, materials, equipment, storage, preparation, expiration dates, traceability, safety and many other elements that ensure quality to the clients.

To be given the label, the food professional must receive 85% on the evaluation.

A new test is given every two years to check changes in the establishment and to ascertain whether the service is consistent with the label requirements and the demands of Quality Charter.

Restaurants with the label are recognized in several ways that attest to their quality:
How can you spot them? There are several ways: the logo, the Quality Charter, the certificate, and the customer satisfaction cards. You can find the restaurants