Revealed: These are the UK’s worst areas for food hygiene

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Birmingham and Hyndburn have been named as the UK’s worst areas for food hygiene (PA)

The worst areas in Britain for food hygiene have been revealed – and the grubby bottom two have kept their spot for the second year running.

Birmingham and Hyndburn both failed to come up to scratch across a range of areas including the number of high and medium-risk food businesses, the amount of premises which opened but were not visited or given a risk rating, as well as the number of interventions that had to be carried out, according to a study by Which?.

Birmingham City Council had a poor record for carrying out inspections within 28 days of a food business opening, with 16% of the city’s more than 8,000 food businesses yet to be rated, according to the consumer group’s report.

They also found that 43% of Birmingham’s high and medium-risk food businesses did not meet food compliance standards.

Mark Croxford, of Birmingham City Council, defended the council in the face of the results.

He said: ‘The quality of food businesses in Birmingham is not a measure or reflection of the council’s performance.

A study found 43% of Birmingham’s high and medium-risk food businesses did not meet food compliance standards (Rex)

‘I am surprised and disappointed to see Which? have made the same mistake as they have done in previous years, in failing to engage with local authorities to produce a meaningful report.

‘It is apparent – using the same Local Authority Monitoring System (LAEMS) data available to Which? – that Birmingham City Council’s environmental health team have inspected the second highest number of premises, undertaken more prosecutions, closed more food premises and suspended more approved manufacturers than any other English local authority in 2016/17.

‘These interventions show we actively inspect food businesses and take any necessary action, where there are problems, to deal with them robustly and keep people safe.’

He described the high number of new food businesses opening in Birmingham as ‘a significant challenge’, stating that more than 1,000 new food businesses were registered in Birmingham in 2016/17.

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Mr Croxford said ‘putting that into context, our officers have 8,341 premises to inspect across Birmingham, second only to Cornwall with 8,652’.

Hyndburn Borough Council, the Lancashire region which counts Accrington as the biggest town, was the second worst area in the UK for food hygiene in 2016/17.

Which? said that 98% of its businesses had been rated for risk, but just two in five of its medium and high-risk food businesses met hygiene standards, compared with 98% in Harrogate, which is about an hour away in North Yorkshire.

Hyndburn Council’s deputy leader Paul Cox dismissed the findings as ‘not a true reflection of the current picture in Hyndburn’, saying the statistics used are 13 months out of date.

Birmingham City Council had a poor record for carrying out inspections within 28 days of a food business opening (Grab)

Which? looked at data for 390 local authorities including information from LAEMS, collected by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Erewash Borough Council, in East Derbyshire, was rated top for the second year in a row just ahead of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, in Hampshire.

Which? believes that Brexit could deliver another blow to standards. It states the Government, which is under pressure to safeguard current food standards, will need to step up checks on imports and potentially look to negotiate trade deals with countries with lower food standards.

Alex Neill, of Which?, said: ‘When it comes to food, British consumers expect the very best standards for themselves and their families.

‘But our enforcement regime is under huge strain, just as Brexit threatens to add to the responsibilities of struggling local authorities.

‘Effective food enforcement must be a government priority, including robust checks on imports as well as co-operation with the EU and other countries on food risk.’

Lowest 10 ranked local authorities:

1. Birmingham
2. Hyndburn
3. Camden
4. Croydon
5. Isles of Scilly
6. Falkirk
7. Glasgow
8. Edinburgh
9. Lewisham
10. Waltham Forest

Top 10 ranked local authorities:

1. Erewash
2. Basingstoke and Deane
3. Sunderland
4. North Dorset
5. South Kesteven
6. Brentwood
7. West Dorset
8. Staffordshire and Moorlands
9. Conwy
10. Orkney Islands