Stevenage and North Herts food hygiene ratings revealed

The latest food hygiene ratings have been revealed. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The latest food hygiene ratings have been revealed. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Too many food outlets in North Herts and Stevenage are failing to meet acceptable hygiene standards, an investigation has revealed.

A study of more than 200 inspections carried out by councils for the two areas in 2015 so far has found that, while around 60 per cent received the highest score possible, dozens of eateries were rated as below par.

This was a particular problem in North Herts, where 19 per cent of the places inspected by the district council were classed as ‘non-compliant’, which means they scored a rating of two or fewer out of five.

The scores were particularly poor for takeaways and sandwich shops in the two districts, with 15 of the 38 checked on the receiving end of a mark of two or fewer – an overall average of just 3.2 out of five.

Some of the issues identified include poorly-cleaned surfaces and equipment, cross contamination of raw meats and fresh food causing a risk of e-coli poisoning, out-of-date food, food stored in carrier and bin bags, food stored at the wrong temperatures, mouldy food and poorly-trained staff.

Millions of pounds are spent in our eateries every single year and local authorities are tasked with carrying out spot-checks to make sure the food is served and prepared to acceptable hygiene standards.

Five years ago, the Food Standards Agency introduced a nationally standardised rating scheme – from zero to five stars – and took the step of not only publishing the rating, but the report as well.

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Hygiene bosses say this has generally reduced the number of places failing to meet standards, but our figures suggest there is more work to do.

Councillor Bernard Lovewell, responsible for environmental health at North Herts District Council, said: “The council has been operating the scheme for two years and has been targeting resources on some of the poorer performing businesses to help them to improve.

“We are really encouraged that currently only one premise has a zero rating and the broad compliance – three, four and five ratings – increased to 87.1 per cent between April 2014 and March 2015 from 80.7 per cent in 2013/14.

“Another focus has been to address the number of premises which didn’t have a rating. As of the end of March more than 95 per cent of businesses have now been rated.

“We have also achieved 100 per cent of scheduled food safety inspections.”

Councillor Jeannette Thomas, who holds a similar position at Stevenage Borough Council, added: “Our environmental health team has always worked very closely with food outlets to ensure they practice in the most hygienic way.

“We are pleased that hygiene ratings across Stevenage are still improving year-on-year, and we look forward to further supporting businesses to ensure that their food safety standards are as high as possible.”

In North Herts, 156 places have been inspected so far this year. One of them received a zero-rating and 19 per cent were found to be below the acceptable standard. Some 58 per cent received a perfect five-star rating, however, and the average across the district was four stars.

In comparison the average of the 98 places inspected in Stevenage was 4.2, with 13 per cent scoring two or less and one restaurant receiving a zero rating. Of those inspected in 2015, 65 per cent received five stars.

For the two districts combined, the cleanest establishment type was the school, university and college category, with the 20 places visited all receiving the perfect five stars, followed by hospital, carers, childcare with 4.6 as an average.

The worst establishment type was takeaways and sandwich shops, followed by retailers, which have a 3.7 average.

Stevenage-based Hurrens Butchers was among those to receive top marks.

Sue Hurren, who is the managing director alongside her husband Paul, said: “My father-in-law started the business in 1973 when there were no refigerated vehicles, but it’s very different now.

“For our clients and customers the ratings are very important.

“They can see they we have the top marks for hygiene and that is reassuring. People will think: I’m going to go there because they’ve got a five.”

Asked about whether all businesses should have to display its rating, she added:

“I think it should mandatory for everybody. I think it gives customers the confidence to buy from businesses and those that have a low rating have something to strive for.”

The Comet attempted to contact a number of businesses which had received a one or a zero rating, but none had responded at the time of going to press.

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Stevenage & North Herts Ratings

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