Related tags Food hygiene Hygiene Food safety Food standards agency

Peter Eveleigh The licensee of the Riverside Inn in Bradford-on-Avon muses on proposals for giving pubs a star rating for their food hygiene Being...

Peter Eveleigh

The licensee of the Riverside Inn in Bradford-on-Avon muses on proposals for giving pubs a star rating for their food hygiene

Being involved with our local Pubwatch, I sometimes receive calls from my local paper asking for comments on trade-related issues.

This time it was about the "trial" being conducted by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health on publication of information about its visits, especially in relation to food hygiene.

It seems that some 60 local authorities have embarked on a trial in which a "star rating" is awarded to premises following visits, and posted on their websites for the public to check - an example of pro-active freedom of information?

While nobody would object to improving food quality in our industry, I can see several flaws in this scheme.

Its most significant failing appears to be its rationale of reducing NHS costs for nearly 1.3 million poor folk who become sick each year as a result of food-related illnesses.

Hang on, Mr Rocket Scientist - where do most of these food-related illnesses actually originate? Well I couldn't track down any meaningful statistic but I guess that most are caused by poor hygiene practices in the home.

And what about consultation before proceeding? British retail and hospitality associations have expressed severe reservations about this trial.

Our trade bodies - and the trade press, for that matter - haven't commented so far, but Which? magazine is all in favour. Perhaps that will be good enough, particularly when polls from other countries - US, Canada, New Zealand and Denmark -

all support it.

It seems to me that this scheme is based on common guidelines from the Food Standards Agency, but is applied locally by environmental teams. Some participants post results on a monthly basis and seem unable to amend or up-date for up to two years.

So what happens if a newcomer inherits a bad score and has to live with it for 18 months? And what happens if a poor score is followed up by some measure of "enforcement"?

At a time when pubs are desperately trying to plan for the smoking ban - a significant aspect of which is tackling their food operations in parallel with provisions for their smoking clientele - it seems that our businesses are once again being put behind the eight-ball.

Whatever happened to "word-of-mouth"?

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