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'Could do better' says Oxford City Council's head of environmental health services
Although unlike some food establishments those in the city of Oxford are faring rather well, with 86% of establishments boasting a hygiene standard rating of at least four out of five, Ian Wright, Oxford City Council's head of environmental health services, is calling for greater improvements to be made.
He's also calling on the Government to make it mandatory for restaurants to make inspection results visible outside their doors - as it already is in Wales - as he feels that this will encourage establishments to do better. At the moment in England it is up to the restaurant whether it is displayed.
Ian told the Oxford Times that the introduction of the Food Standards Agency Food Hygiene Rating system in 2012 has had a huge impact across the city, but said that further improvements could be made and that 'scores on the doors' would encourage this.
He said: "It's had a huge impact. I think it has worked more through the embarrassment and fear of getting a zero or one and that the information is publicly available. We have seen an improvement and now 86% of food businesses in the city are either four or five rated."
He argued that if it were to be made mandatory for the rating to be visible on the restaurant's door, it would improve the situation even further, saying: "It would bring about a bit of a sea-change. The more the public can see what ratings these places have, the better that helps us push them to improve. It does make a big difference to whether people will eat somewhere or not."
The health services team said that the most common areas causing businesses to be marked down are in cross-contamination and pest infestations.
Ian Wright recalls that the worst incident he came across was of a case of Scombrotoxin (seafood poisoning) at a former city sushi restaurant. The incident led to the restaurant's closure.
He said: "Two people ended up being rushed to hospital and it looked pretty serious at one stage. They had left raw fish out and they were not recording the temperature food was kept at all.
"The owner had turned up and done as little as possible to the place since he moved in. It wasn't the first time he had done something similar."
Every establishment serving food in the city, has a food inspection when it registers as a business. On the first inspection - which assesses food hygiene, structural compliance and confidence in management - businesses are scored between zero and five. At the same time a risk rating between A and E is given - with A being the highest risk - and this determines how often future inspections take place. The lowest risk restaurants will typically be reinspected every six months to a year.
The council's environmental health services team can also inspect based on complaints received and can order a business to close while improvements are made. If the orders are not complied with, they can then close down a business permanently.
Image: courtesy of reporter Callum Keown
21st January 2016