Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Restaurants: check their hygiene ratings

Restaurants may not be as clean behind the scenes as one would wish. The BBC and Which have reported plans, co-ordinated by the UK Food Standards Agency, to make restaurant hygiene ratings available online, with a 5 star rating system.

The scheme is provisionally called "Scores on the Doors" and if you live in certain parts of the UK (see the list of participating councils - currently Bath, Birmingham, Bourmemouth, Bristol, Lincoln, Liverpool, Hackney, Southwark, West Bridgford, Dunstable, Cambourne, Grantham and Gainsborough), you can now check the scores of your local restaurants and takeaways on the Web before you eat or buy any food from there. Or indeed check out places you already eat at! The list can only grow.

In a way it may be a relief that my local borough council isn't on the list yet, as I'd feel compelled to search for my favourite takeaways and restaurants, and who knows what I'd find...

It's an excellent initiative though, from a consumer viewpoint, and I might well use it to check out the rating of any new restaurant that I'm going to try out. I'm not sure if the cleanliness rating of a restaurant would count as much as say its Michelin star rating, but if it ranked bottom on the hygiene front that would certainly give me pause, however many Michelin stars it might have.

One oddity - they say that a particular restaurant may not be listed even where its council is participating in the scheme, if e.g. there was a prosecution case pending which meant that the council had decided to withhold the info. Surely, if a restaurant is so bad on the food safety or hygiene front that the local authority are prosecuting them, that's precisely the sort of info a consumer would want to be able to find out from the Scores on the Doors site, and that's precisely when they ought to list the restaurant and prosecution details on the site!

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