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Low food hygiene ratings not always painting an accurate picture

Consumers checking a government website for food hygiene standards at some South Holland businesses cannot be certain they are seeing the latest picture.

Two of the three local businesses listed on food.gov.uk as being rated 1 (major improvement necessary) have not been a concern to South Holland District Council inspectors for at least 13 months. In one case, Moulton Post Office, which incorporates a Londis convenience store, still has the second-lowest rating of 1 for an inspection which took place two years ago.

It was revisited in March 2017 at which time it was then compliant with food hygiene legislation.

Proprietor Gary Mound said: “It was mainly a paperwork issue with us and I think we did have a sandwich which was out of date by about ten hours.”

He believes his business has not materially suffered due to the continued low rating, saying that only one customer had mentioned it over the two years and they had been satisfied with his explanation.

Mr Mound said he was unaware of the ratings website, adding: “If it’s done right it’s a reasonably good idea.”

Mini Europe, in Park Road, Holbeach, is another with a rating of 1, issued in October 2017. It had dealt with all matters satisfactorily by the time of a revisit on December 6 that year.

Both premises are due an unannounced food risk inspection within the next two months, at which time they will receive a food hygiene rating.

The reason why some businesses which are operating satisfactorily but still have poor ratings is because they have not been re-scored. In line with the Food Standards Agency Brand Standard, the council charges for a request for this, the cost being £150.

Food hygiene ratings (6480291)
Food hygiene ratings (6480291)

According to the website, as of Wednesday, January 8, 446 South Holland businesses had the top rating of 5 (very good), 112 had a score of 4 (good), and 44 were rated as 3 (generally satisfactory). Among the three unsatisfactory ratings are eight businesses on 2 (improvement necessary). None have the lowest score of 0.

Coun Anthony Casson, district council portfolio holder for public protection, said: “We take great pride in the standard of our food businesses in South Holland and this is reflected in our very high food hygiene ratings across the district.

“Those businesses that are awarded a lower rating are dealt with quickly to ensure that their food standards are brought up to the required standard without delay in order to protect the health of the public.

“Food hygiene rating scores are provided at the time of a food safety inspection and are retained until the next inspection, however the business can request to have a re-score which is a chargeable service. It is therefore a business decision as to whether they opt for this.”

Coun Casson added that food safety consultancy is now offered through a commercial arm of the council with the aim of helping business meet the required standards and to help them improve their food hygiene rating.

Ratings are a snapshot of the standards of food hygiene found at the time of inspection, including handling of food, how it is prepared and stored, cleanliness of facilities and how food safety is managed.


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