Research has revealed that food hygiene is a "postcode lottery" with more than a third of areas in the UK not meeting minimum standards for high-risk food businesses, including pubs.

The study by consumer watchdog Which? revealed that birmingham and two London boroughs – Croydon and Camden – appeared in the top five local authority areas as the worst for standards.

But only next door in neighbouring areas, performance was considerably different, revealing a 'lottery' for eating out. For example, Tandridge District Council, adjacent to the London Borough of Croydon was in the top 25 per cent for best hygiene standards.

 

Food hygiene map

 

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The study found that authorities were severely under-resourced with one member of staff policing 403 food businesses on average across the UK.

It also discovered there were 1,697 more businesses operating without a food hygiene rating in 2016/17 than two years previously.

There were 85,220 consumer complaints about food quality and hygiene in 2016/17 - 23.5 per cent more than the previous year.

 

Worst areas 

 

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In Birmingham 16 per cent of food businesses hadn't been rated when the survey took place, and the Lancashire borough of Hyndburn had just two in five of its medium and high risk food businesses meeting standards.

But in neighbouring Harrogate in North Yorkshire, 98 per cent of businesses met food standards.
In total, four of the bottom ten local authorities were London boroughs, which also included Lewisham and Waltham Forest.

Scottish cities also performed poorly with Falkirk, Glasgow, and Edinburgh in the bottom 10 with just five per cent of Glasgow's high risk businesses complying and nine per cent in Edinburgh.

 

Improvement

Which? said that Hyndburn, the Isles of Scilly and Kingston had reported that they have since improved, and Birmingham said it has inspected the second-highest number of premises and closed more than any other English local authority.

But several local authorities said that the explosion of new food businesses opening across the UK was a challenging – and as a result they were taking on more staff to meet the need for inspection.

The best areas for hygiene were Erewash in East Derbyshire, where 97 per cent complied, and the boroughs of Basingstoke and Dean in Hampshire came second with 96 per cent of compliant businesses.