09/09/2016 | John Brennan

Fresher’s week: The difference between having flies or fries with that

09/09/2016 | John Brennan

Fresher’s week: The difference between having flies or fries with that

With fresher’s week round the corner, takeaways are preparing for the swarm of students who are sure to visit after a series of booze-fuelled nights. Let’s face it, us Brits can’t get enough of greasy, calorific takeaways, regardless of whether it’s a curry, pizza or fish and chips. But have you ever questioned the cleanliness of the premises producing your food? Post-night out, the question ‘is it alcohol poisoning or food poisoning?’ is one we want to avoid. Whilst most drunken consumers are content to dine at a venue with no displayed FSA rating, the desire for food hygiene awareness amongst diners continues to grow.

A survey of 2,000 adults by discount website Vouchercodes, revealed that the average Brit buys 12 takeaways a month, which works out at an extortionate spend of £1,320 each year. The biggest culprits are aged 25-34, excused by having no motivation or time to cook.

Good food hygiene is key in producing or selling food that is safe to eat. The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland helps the public decide where to eat by providing them with the relevant information about hygiene standards in food outlets such as restaurants, takeaways, cafes, pubs and hotels. The rating is given by local authority food safety officers after checking businesses are compliant with the law. According to the FSA, “the food hygiene rating is not a guide to food quality”, it is simply based on food hygiene.

‘Scores on the Doors’ lists 509,646 premises throughout the UK so you can be sure how clean and well-managed food preparation is. Although it’s a legal requirement to have this sticker displayed in Wales, it is not yet obligatory in this country. The Local Government Association is highlighting the need for all businesses in England to clearly display the rating, in a bid to increase standards and protect customers from eating food cooked in unclean kitchens. Without seeing proof of good levels of hygiene, how else can we confidently decide where to eat?

Zero to hero

With such a large proportion of us partial to a takeaway, it’s alarming that the FSA website reports 68 restaurants in Greater Manchester alone that score 0 on their food hygiene rating – with Bolton and Manchester ranking the worst across all 10 local authorities in the area. So with our Head Office located in Manchester’s unique Northern Quarter, checking the Scores on the Doors App is obligatory in avoiding an unpleasant dining experience.

Just last month, Oxfordshire kebab shop Delight 2 was closed, after Environmental Health Officers were summoned to make a surprise visit following a customer complaint. Officers discovered both living and dead rats, rat faeces and gnawed food packaging. A notice was immediately served inhibiting them from using the building until they remove all pests and secure the building to prevent further pest entry. In the Oxford Times Tony Harbour, the council’s cabinet member for environmental health said “most businesses work hard to provide high food safety standards.

“Cases like this show that those who fail to do this will face swift and decisive action from our officers to protect the public.

“In this case a member of the public made a complaint and we were at the premises later that same day to investigate”.

Can Can Chinese takeaway in Essex was fined over £10,000 at a hearing in March 2016 for 13 food hygiene offences, posing “a serious threat to public health and the risk of food poisoning”. This costly punishment came after a series of letters from the local authority were repeatedly ignored and conditions continued to be poor. Food debris, dirty tea towels, broken and dirty food containers and clogged extraction filters were just some of the discoveries. And more shockingly, inspectors witnessed raw chicken stored on top of lettuce leaves, not to mention out-of-date food found in fridges.

Earlier this year the Guardian reported Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in London to have had an infestation of cockroaches, leading to a disappointing FHRS score of two out of five. Instant steps were taken to rectify the situation and the restaurant now has a top rating.

In order to be sure that you have all of the boxes ticked when it comes to food hygiene, here’s what the local authority assess against in an inspection:

– how hygienically food is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
– the structure of the building, including ventilation, layout, cleanliness and lighting
– how the business evidences that procedures are in place to ensure food is safe and that they will be upheld

In order to ensure good hygiene, you must control harmful bacteria to avoid serious illness. The 4 Cs – cross-contamination, cleaning, chilling and cooking provide a solid framework for achieving this:

Cross-contamination:

– clean all surfaces and equipment before and after preparing food
– use different equipment for raw and ready-to-eat food
– always wash hands before and after touching food
– store raw food below ready-to-eat food
– use separate machinery and cleaning materials (cloths, sponges etc.)

Cleaning:

– wash and dry hands thoroughly
– clean food areas between different tasks
– clear and clean as you go
– use suitable cleaning and disinfection products
– clear of all food waste

Chilling:

– keep food that requires chilling in the fridge immediately
– check delivered food is cool enough
– cool chilled food as quickly as possible
– check fridge and display units regularly

Cooking:

– ensure food is cooked thoroughly – piping hot all the way through – particularly poultry, pork, minced meat (burgers and sausages)
– only beef and lamb e.g. steaks, cutlets and whole joints can be served pink/rare

Be one step ahead

As food hygiene ratings become more and more crucial in the modern consumers’ decision-making process, the importance of a good score becomes even more crucial for success. Audits are an essential tool in helping to achieve the maximum five out of five rating . By having an expert assess the risk in your business, you will be prepared for any visits from an official officer and be confident you are operating in line with legislation. We have the largest team of Environmental Health Practitioners in the UK and have a unique way of delivering the service. We’ll provide you with a clear, simple action plan and risk rating so you’re prepared for that knock on the door from the local authority.

Moreover, even if your business has no obvious hygiene problems, food businesses can fail an inspection if there’s a lack of paperwork to back this up. Pen and paper records mean that HACCP records can be easily lost, illegible or incomplete. To solve these problems, our award-winning risk and safety software integrates existing software and pulls together all of your data into one risk status indicator. This will streamline existing practices, reduce paper, shorten manual processes, expedite everyday responsibilities, meet legal requirements and calculate risk status.

At Shield Safety, we believe clearly displaying scores on the doors increases public awareness of the safety of the food they’re eating, and will also give poor-scoring vendors more initiative and drive to achieve a higher FHRS rating to achieve full compliance. If a customer can see how clean and compliant your premises is, the volume of traffic through your door is sure to increase.

If your business is having problems in securing a reputable rating, our team of food safety experts can help you up your game and attain a rating to be proud of. To find out more, visit our homepage or call us now on 020 3826 8065

The information contained in this blog article has been created for marketing purposes and is not official guidance and should not be used as a substitute for official food safety, health and safety or fire safety advice. Shield Safety take no responsibility if the information in the blog article is used to form part of a safety management system or used to form part of any legal or regulatory compliance for your business. For official guidance and to engage with Shield Safety services please do call our team on 020 3740 3744 or email sales@shieldyourself.co.uk.