Michelin restaurants face exposure over poor food hygiene

By Sophie Witts

- Last updated on GMT

Michelin restaurants face exposure over poor food hygiene

Related tags Food hygiene ratings Food standards agency

Michelin-starred restaurants in England should be forced to display food hygiene ratings or face a fine, councils have warned.

‘Scores on the Doors’ have been mandatory in food businesses in Wales since 2013,​ and will become compulsory in Northern Ireland in October.

But The Local Government Association (LGA) believes the laws should be extended to all food outlets in England.

The move could hit Michelin restaurants particularly hard, as research from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) shows their rankings are generally lower than high-street chains.

In December the FSA awarded 83 per cent of chains the top score of five out of five compared to 55 per cent of Michelin-starred outlets.

Cllr Simon Blackburn,chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Anyone in England who sees a business without a hygiene rating sticker currently has to decide if they want to eat or buy food there without knowing what's going on in the kitchen.

“It's not always easy for people to judge hygiene standards simply by walking through the front door of a premise and know whether they are about to be served a ‘dodgy' burger or kebab that could pose a serious risk to their health.”

Tough at the top

Bruce Poole, owner of the Michelin-starred Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, which does not have a five-star rating, told The Telegraph​ it was much easier for chain restaurants to meet FSA standards.

He said: “It is very difficult for restaurants like ours as unlike high street chains which have restricted menus; we have fresh food coming through the day – sometimes up to 70 different items.

“We have to be able to show that all these pieces of produce have been handled correctly. For example we were downgraded from five stars because we couldn't prove that we had frozen some fish at the correct temperature." 

In December Michelin-starred Dabbous in Fitzrovia was given a score of zero after FSA inspectors found an infestation of mice.

However owner Ollie Dabbous said the score did 'not reflect the hygiene levels we practice', and the restaurant has since returned to a five-star rating.

Fewer inspections

The FSA's warning comes after a study found that the number of food hygiene inspections carried out in the UK have fallen by 15 per cent since 2003.

According to research by Professor Steve Tombs for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies​, the number of inspections fell from 307,526 in 2003-04 to 260,765 in 2014-15.

The number of outlets prosecuted also dropped from 552 to 361 in the same period.

Professor Tombs, who obtained that data through freedom of information requests to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said policymakers needed to ‘urgently address the radical reduction in local authority inspections and enforcement’.

But the LGA believes that the display of compulsory food hygiene ratings will reduce the need for costly enforcement action by councils.

Blackburn said: "Forcing all food outlets in England to display a hygiene rating would help to crack down on and expose businesses that flout the law and put people at risk by incentivising them to improve or maintain high hygiene standards and show customers how seriously they take the issue.”

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