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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK
Food checks uncover horror conditions
Meal
Half of food outlets visited failed inspection
Health inspectors found a mouse scampering across a busy restaurant and urine and water pouring into the kitchen of another when they followed up complaints.

Out of ten restaurants in Cambridge, Birmingham and London, half failed inspections.

Now the Consumers' Association is calling for changes in the law to ensure all catering premises are licensed as each year 4.5m people in the UK contract food poisoning.


Publicly available hygiene scores would be a good way of indicating whether the food you will be served will be fit to eat

Helen Parker
Editor of Which?
They also want to see hygiene scores publicly available so that consumers can compare the standards of different food establishments.

Environmental Health Officers (EHO) inspectors found

  • A mouse scampering across the kitchen floor in a busy Italian restaurant in Birmingham
  • Urine and water pouring into the kitchen of a small Birmingham restaurant
  • Dirt-encrusted containers for cooked foods and salads and rat droppings next to boxes of mouldy vegetables in an Italian restaurant in the West End.
  • The risk of cross-contamination in a Cambridge chip-shop with raw burgers being stored above uncovered salad items and cooked chicken. Only three of the seven staff had received basic hygiene training.
The Consumers's Association said that many restaurants were of an extremely high standard, but that customers at the moment had no way of knowing which were good or bad, because problem restaurants cannot be publicly identified unless they are prosecuted or closed down.

They said that at the moment no formal training is needed to open a restaurant or take-away.

One manager they visited in London's West End admitted she didn't have any catering qualifications.

Legislation

Restaurants, cafes and take-aways are covered by three main pieces of legislation. One is the Food Safety Act (1990) and there are two regulations covering general food hygiene and temperature controls.

Following visits, EHO's can issue verbal or written warnings about work that needs to be carried out and give warnings of closure if advice isn't followed.

Usually owners or managers do respond to warnings - out of 7,000 visited in Birmingham over six months, only 24 food outlets were prosecuted.

Burger
One chip shop had raw burgers over salads

Helen Parker, Editor of Which? said: "Half of all restaurants fail inspections carried out by EHO's.

"Introducing a licensing system and basic hygiene training as is already required in butcher's shops would help raise standards and help reduce the number of food poisoning cases in this country.

"Publicly available hygiene scores would be a good way of indicating whether the food you will be served will be fit to eat."

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See also:

26 Aug 00 | Health
Salmonella cases 'rise'
28 Jul 00 | Health
Tough targets on food poisoning
19 Jul 00 | Health
Concern over food safety record
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