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Follow the star ratings to avoid food poisoning this Christmas

Published on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Food Hygiene Rating display card

AS unwanted Christmas presents go, a dose of festive food poisoning must rank pretty highly on the list.

With the Christmas party season in full swing, Leicester City Council’s Food Safety Team is calling on festive partygoers in the city to check beforehand the food hygiene ratings of their chosen party venue.

The team regularly inspects more than 3,000 food establishments including cafes, bars, restaurants, pubs, hotels, supermarkets and takeaways across the city, giving them star ratings out of five according to how well they meet hygiene standards.

The vast majority are compliant – across the city there are currently 1,558 five-star rated premises, 439 four-star rated establishments, 427 three-star places, 117 which are rated as two-star and 85 which received a one-star rating.

A rating of three or above means standards are at least broadly compliant, with no major concerns. Very good establishments benefit from a five-star score, which many of them proudly put on display.

But at the opposite end of the scale, a zero-star rating means an establishment needs to make urgent improvements. The Food Safety Team also has the power to issue emergency prohibition notices to shut down establishments which present an immediate risk to the public.

The ratings are based on issues such as handling, storage and preparation of food, cleanliness of facilities and how well food safety issues are managed.

Leicester City Council’s Food Safety Team manager, Dave Howard, said: “The vast majority of our food establishments in the city maintain good hygiene standards, and our team carries out regular visits to ensure they keep to those standards that the law requires, and customers expect.

“Some are excellent, others good or broadly compliant, while some 13 establishments currently have a zero-star rating, and we are working with these to ensure they make the urgent improvements needed to meet the expected standards.”

Any premises which serves food to the public directly are included in the star rating scheme.

On average the food safety team issues a five-star rating to an establishment in the city every day of the working week, with many restaurants, bars and cafes striving to meet the highest standards and achieve the highest rating.

In the last year, Leicester City Council has carried out nine emergency actions to close down premises deemed to be an imminent risk to the public.

Establishments are only allowed to reopen if they carry out the urgent action required by the inspectors. However their ratings will remain in place until the Food Safety Team is satisfied that they can apply for a re-rating inspection.

While many people mistakenly think that food poisoning is just a passing stomach bug, it can have serious consequences – especially for children, people already in ill-health and older people.

The Food Standards Agency’s advice includes the 4cs of food hygiene – chilling, cleaning, cooking and avoiding cross-contamination – to prevent food-born illnesses.

In most cases food poisoning symptoms can get better within a few days without treatment, although hospital treatment can be required in more serious cases.

Leicester deputy city mayor responsible for regulatory services, Cllr Piara Singh Clair, added: “The council’s Food Safety Team works with businesses right across the city, throughout the year, to ensure that all businesses are aware of the standards they need to meet by law.

“The vast majority of food outlets in the city are good or very good – but some unfortunately do not meet the same high standards.

“So if you are planning your Christmas party in the city, it is definitely worth checking the star ratings to see which establishments are meeting the highest standards, and ensuring that your Christmas isn’t ruined by illness.”

It is easy to search for premises’ scores on the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme online at the Food Standards Agency website