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Is your food safe to eat? Worst areas in the UK for food hygiene revealed

Nic McBride

Nic McBride
Jun 25, 2018


If you live in Birmingham, Hyndburn or Camden you might want to double check your food before you take your next bite.

The three areas have been ranked the worst for food hygiene in the UK according to consumer group Which?.

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Meanwhile, complaints about food standards and hygiene have risen dramatically across the country.

Scroll down to see the top ten best and worst places for food hygiene.

There were 85,220 complaints about food quality and hygiene in 2016/17 - up by 23.5% on the previous year!

Yet shockingly, the number of formal food hygiene enforcement actions dropped by 1.4%.

390 local authorities across the UK were ranked according to:

  • How many high and medium-risk food businesses were compliant with food hygiene standards.
  • How many food premises had not been visited by food safety officers.
  • How many interventions by officers were carried out.

A food business' risk depends on various factors including: their size and number of customers, if they supply food to vulnerable people, and if it is significantly failing to meet food hygiene standards.

The analysis was done using data from the 2016/17 collected by the Food Standards Agency.

 

The top ten best and worst areas for food hygiene

Lowest 10 ranked areas:

  1. Birmingham
  2. Hyndburn
  3. Camden
  4. Croydon
  5. Isles of Scilly
  6. Falkirk
  7. Glasgow
  8. Edinburgh
  9. Lewisham
  10. Waltham Forest

 

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Top 10 ranked areas:

  1. Erewash
  2. Basingstoke and Deane
  3. Sunderland
  4. North Dorset
  5. South Kesteven
  6. Brentwood
  7. West Dorset
  8. Staffordshire and Moorlands
  9. Conwy
  10. Orkney Islands

FIND YOUR AREA HERE

Birmingham City Council and Hyndburn Borough Council were ranked as the worst areas for food hygiene enforcement for the second year running.

Birmingham had a poor record for carrying out inspections, with 16% of the city’s more than 8,000 food businesses yet to be rated.

Meanwhile, 43% of Birmingham’s high and medium-risk food businesses didn’t meet food compliance standards.

The Lancashire borough of Hyndburn, where Accrington is the biggest town, had 98% of its businesses rated. But just two in five of its medium and high-risk food businesses met food hygiene standards, compared with 98 per cent in Harrogate, which is about an hour away in North Yorkshire.

 

The best food hygiene areas

Coming out at the top of the table for food hygiene for a second year was Erewash Borough Council, in East Derbyshire.

It carried out planned interventions on all failing premises, and an impressive 97% of its medium and high-risk establishments are compliant with hygiene standards.

 

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Concerns for the future of food hygiene

The research showed many local authorities were struggling to meet their responsibilities and Which? had concerns about their ongoing ability to do this as Brexit threatens to increase their workload.

Alex Neill, Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said: "Our enforcement regime is under huge strain, just as Brexit threatens to add to the responsibilities of struggling local authorities.

"Effective food enforcement must be a Government priority, including robust checks on imports as well as co-operation with the EU and other countries on food risks".

On average, there was one food hygiene enforcement officer per 403 food businesses across the UK.

This has coincided with a 5.5% increase in the number of food premises that have yet to be rated compared with two years previously – meaning that in 2016/17, 1,697 more businesses were running without a food hygiene rating compared to 2014/15.

 

What the food hygiene enforcers say

Birmingham council said it inspected the second highest number of premises and closed more than any other English local authority.

Hyndburn claimed 92.5% of its food businesses are now compliant and it has taken ‘significant strides to improve food hygiene’.

Food Standards Scotland said the analysis doesn’t take into account the “wide range of enforcement actions and other initiatives applied by local authorities”, nor reflect local authority enforcement policies, resources and responses to FSS audits.

Local authorities in Camden, Croydon, Glasgow and Hyndburn said they were employing more staff.

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