food & drink

Before reading a menu, read the hygiene ratings

Britain’s environmental health officers have recently been named as some of the best in Europe.

Britain’s environmental health officers have recently been named as some of the best in Europe. They’re conscientious, extremely vigilant and not afraid to crack down on whoever isn’t up to scratch – even celebrity run restaurants. It seems like more and more top names are being awarded some of the lowest food ratings in the country.

But why is this? And will food hygiene stars soon become more valuable than Michelin stars to a restaurant’s reputation?

Jamie’s Fiasco

Jamie Oliver has joined the ranks of celebrity chefs whose restaurants have been slammed by local health officers. Back in March, the formidable Marco Pierre White’s Birmingham steakhouse received an appalling zero from their food hygiene inspectors.

Oliver can pride himself on at least managing a rating of one out of five, but his smart London butcher Barbecoa was still shut down after EHO (Environmental Health) officers found mouldy meat and mouse droppings on the premises.

It’s not the first time that one of Oliver’s restaurants has met poor hygiene ratings, with many branches of his Jamie’s Italian chain faring just as badly.

Top End Trouble

It is worth mentioning that the majority of restaurants in the country do manage to maintain high standards of food hygiene. Barbecoa is one of only 12 restaurants in the City of London area to receive a hazardous rating. But when you look at it as 12 out of almost 2,000 restaurants, it’s alarming to realise that it’s the most expensive places that have the worst standards of cleanliness.

But why is this? The most obvious reason is that the owners are too concerned with branding, money making and the celebrity value of their restaurants to devote as much time as they should to keeping them clean. And frankly, that’s shameful.

Check before you eat

Food hygiene ratings are there for a reason, but the majority of us still aren’t bothering to check how clean the restaurants we’re eating in are. As a restaurant worker for close to five years, I can tell you that keeping a restaurant clean involves hard graft every single day, so those that are getting four and five star ratings are doing so because they’re really dedicated to their business.

Currently, food hygiene ratings don’t have to be legally displayed on the premises, but with the recent health hazards found in high end restaurants, this is likely to change. Ultimately, we should be grateful that we have the most vigilant EHO’s in Britain, who take no prisoners when it comes to our health.

You can check all your local restaurants and their ratings here, and it’s well worth a look. Remember – you don’t see what’s behind the scenes.

What do you think? How do you think this would improve your next restaurant experience? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Stu Spivak