From the editor

A closer look at restaurants

How much attention do you pay to a restaurant’s food hygiene rating? Do you scan the door and window before popping your head inside, or is it a detail that goes relatively unconsidered?

Two recent reports have been looking into restaurant hygiene, and found that we’re not as up to scratch as we should be. Which? revealed the country’s worst postcodes for food hygiene, as well as what chains to avoid. More recently, BBC Watchdog investigated listings on Just Eat, and found some of the restaurants didn’t even exist.

“When we visited them we found residential streets, industrial estates and even fields,” the BBC reported. And perhaps even more bizarrely, when food was ordered from these invisible restaurants, the food turned up.

In five out of six cities that the BBC investigated, they found restaurants that weren’t registered with the local authority – making their operation illegal and food hygiene and safety questionable. But the scarier bit is still to come – over 40% of the rated restaurants in England and Wales scored zero, one and two out of five for food hygiene.

Rachel Glover, Environmental Health Officer at Basildon Council told the BBC: “A hygiene rating of zero, one or two means that at the time of inspection the food was being prepared in an unhygienic environment. Maybe there were mice, poor cleaning standards, raw meat juices pouring onto cooked food.”

It all sounds so grim, and is enough to put anyone off eating out. But the buck should stop with the customer, and as part of its ongoing improvements, Just Eat could consider including food hygiene ratings on all its listings. Which? is also campaigning for mandatory display of food hygiene certificates. That should clean things up a notch or two.