Swindon Deputy Leader councillor Brian Mattock writes:
Many of us like to go out to eat or have a take-away, but we rarely see the kitchen where the food is prepared. The council does.
One of our important roles is to carry out regular hygiene inspections of restaurants, cafes, hotels and other food premises. They are rated on a scale of zero to five, and the scheme is known as the “scores on the doors“. If you go out to eat and can’t see a door or window sticker displaying the star rating, ask yourself why.This national scheme, which the council implements locally, doesn’t make it compulsory to display the sticker. The venue owner may have forgotten to put it up or it could have fallen off, but equally it might be because the rating isn’t great.
My strong recommendation therefore is that you check before you eat. You can go to the Food Standards Agency website www.food.gov.uk and click on Eating Out? Getting Food In? in the top right of the page. You can then search by business name or postcode.
Should a food business score zero, we don’t simply shut them down. Instead, we work with them closely to improve the hygiene of their kitchen, re-inspecting them every three months, and sometimes more frequently, to make sure that they are taking our advice and applying it. We want low-scoring businesses to get better and stay that way. It’s in no-one’s interests to be draconian, although if poorly-performing businesses persistently refuse to heed our advice we will prosecute them.
If a business is so appalling that it represents an immediate risk to its customers’ health, we will close it. However, these cases are quite rare. It’s worth remembering that most Swindon food businesses do a great job, and don’t assume that the size or type of business is an indication of how hygienic they are. It’s not.
A vibrant food industry is important economically and the sector provides much employment. Food businesses often provide the first jobs for students and other young people who get their first taste of proper work. For example, the current Chief Secretary to the Treasury worked at a well-known fast-food chain at Bahnhof Zoo in Berlin.
What I have outlined above represents the core approach the Council takes.We know that building partnerships and taking people along with you is the most effective way to produce sustainable improvements.That is why on a whole range of challenges from public health to littering, when others automatically demand we should send in the enforcers, we say we’d rather send in the educators first. We only apply the stick when it’s absolutely necessary.
You can now also find out what food hygiene rating your food business has been awarded from your mobile phone. Download the free Food Standards Agency app to your Android or smart phone. Just search your app store on your phone under ‘food standards agency’ and down load the hygiene ratings app or use the app download at the Food Standards Agency Ratings sitewww.ratings.food.gov.uk
Read how Swindon Council implements the policy and see what the stars stand for here