LIFESTYLE
13/02/2015 05:03 GMT | Updated 13/02/2015 05:59 GMT

The Worst Places In Britain For Food Hygiene Revealed...

If you're planning on dining out with the love of your life this weekend, then you might want to read this first.

A new study has revealed that food hygiene is a postcode lottery and diners might as well "toss a coin" to decide on where to eat.

Some areas of the UK are falling well below basic food hygiene requirements, with Enfield in London being the worst performing local authority.

food hygiene

The study by Which? found that The City of Edinburgh ranks only just above Enfield while five other London councils - Lewisham, Ealing, Harrow, Camden and Brent - are also in the bottom 10.

Cherwell District Council in north Oxfordshire is rated the best performing local authority for the second year running.

Compared to last year, Newark and Sherwood is the most improved local authority for food hygiene while Fylde Borough Council deteriorated the most.

The consumer group compiled its ranking after looking at the latest data submitted by 398 UK local authorities to the Food Standards Agency.

It looked at three criteria - the proportion of premises ranked as high or medium risk in a local authority that were compliant with food hygiene requirements, the percentage of premises that had been rated for risk, and the proportion of inspections and other follow ups that were carried out by local authority inspectors.

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A business should be given a risk rating when it opens from A, or high risk, to E, or low risk, which is determined by factors such as the type of establishment, how many people it serves and the competence of the management.

The rating determines how often the premises are inspected, with highest-risk premises visited every six months and those considered the lowest risk visited every five years.

Businesses are ultimately responsible for complying with hygiene rules but local authorities are tasked with enforcing compliance.

A survey by the watchdog to coincide with the study found 96% of people think it is important that local authorities ensure compliance with food hygiene rules.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "Our research reveals a shocking postcode lottery on food hygiene where in some places you may as well toss a coin before deciding which restaurant to trust with your health.

"Consumers expect local authorities to check that food businesses in their area comply with hygiene standards and rigorously enforce the rules.

"Local authorities should do more to make the best use of limited resources, respond effectively to risks across the food supply chain and ensure consumers are adequately protected wherever they live."

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Food Hygiene At Home

The top 10 local authorities on food enforcement are:

1. Cherwell

2. Brentwood

3. Broxbourne

4. Basingstoke and Deane

5. Hartlepool

6. Ballymena

7. Gwynedd

8. Rossendale

9. High Peak

10. Weymouth and Portland

The bottom 10 local authorities on food enforcement are:

1. Enfield

2. City of Edinburgh

3. Lewisham

4. Ealing

5. Harrow

6. Perth and Kinross

7. Falkirk

8. Birmingham

9. Camden

10. Brent

Enfield Council's Cabinet member for environment and community safety, Chris Bond, said the Which? findings were incorrect and the conclusions "nonsense".

He said: "It is ludicrous to suggest, as Which? are, for example, that local authorities which identify the most shortcomings in their local food businesses are the ones which are failing residents when the reverse is quite clearly true. Under the Which? assessment criteria, the more businesses you close or prosecute for hygiene failings, the worse the job you are doing. That is clearly a ridiculous suggestion.

"We know that our dedicated inspection teams inspect hundreds of premises each year, follow the Food Standards Agency inspection guidelines for food business to the letter and are incredibly tough on businesses which are not compliant with food hygiene law.

"We think that is the right way to protect the public from poor hygiene in food businesses and we will continue to pursue this strategy.

"As such we do not recognise the legitimacy of these league tables which actually hold light-touch inspection regimes up as best practice. Unfortunately such regimes are far less likely to challenge the poor practice and hygiene failings in food businesses that are likely to endanger the public by causing food poisoning.

"This research is so fundamentally flawed that I would not wrap my chips in the paper it is printed on. We think there are better ways of measuring the performance of food safety teams."

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Local Government Association regulation spokesman Nick Worth said: "Councils are working hard to improve food safety standards and there is some excellent work being done in this area. Councils will always try to make the best possible use of the resources they have. However, they are being hamstrung by a 40% core funding cut from government.

"These figures don't necessarily reflect the challenges and circumstances that councils in different areas are tackling. Most importantly, it needs to be remembered that it is ultimately the responsibility of the outlets themselves to ensure food is produced in a safe and hygienic environment that complies with the law."

Maybe we won't be visiting Enfield for Valentine's Day after all.