If you’re tucking into a bacon butty – don’t read on.
Bolton has the most critically unhygienic food handlers in Greater Manchester, Food Standards Agency ratings have revealed.
A shocking 27 establishments scored the lowest Food Hygiene Rating of 0, and were slammed with the ‘urgent improvement’ demand.
And 235 (13%) of 1819 establishments in the borough do not meet FSA hygiene standards – with seven of these in the education or healthcare sectors.
A Bolton Council spokesman said: “We take food hygiene very seriously and target our resources on the highest risk food businesses, combining the provision of advice with rigorous enforcement where needed.
“Bolton has a very high proportion of takeaways, tending to have a fast turnover of staff and management which negatively affects the average food hygiene ratings.
“To help poorly performing takeaways understand the importance of good food hygiene practices, we are introducing a FSA funded initiative to provide free food hygiene coaching to some of these businesses at their own premises.”
Bolton leaves Trafford, Stockport and Salford trailing in its wake in terms of 0-rated establishments, with the aforementioned three having 14 premises each urgently requiring improvement.
More than 1% of Trafford and Stockport’s rated establishments have received 0, with 0.8% of Salford’s in the same position, whilst Bury is the only borough with none.
In Greater Manchester as a whole, 0.6% of establishments have a 0-rating, meaning that Bolton is nearly three times above the average.
Iqbal’s Takeaway is Bolton’s most recently inspected 0-rated restaurant, when it was visited by health inspectors on September 24.
The takeaway was closed for a couple of days after authorities found cockroaches, but owner Iqbal Lala, 54, claims the restaurant is now ready for re-inspection.
He said: “The Council told me to get in touch with the pest control contractor, and after visiting three times he has got rid of the cockroaches completely now.
“The local authority came back, had a look around and told me it was fine to re-open the premises.
“Everything is fine now. It was just the cockroaches in my premises which put my rating down; that was the only problem I had.
“Everything is clean and nice, all the equipment in my restaurant is fine, and I am ready to be rated again by the authorities.”
Whilst Bolton has the most 0-rated establishments in Greater Manchester, Trafford has the biggest proportion of those rated below the satisfactory standard of 3.
More than one in five (22%) Trafford establishments are hygienically unsatisfactory, with Salford (18%) and Stockport (17%) second and third in the league of shame.
Bolton is fourth with 13%, whilst Manchester has the best rate – with only 5% of establishments in the borough deemed below par.
Across Greater Manchester as a whole, 12% of establishments are below an acceptable standard of hygiene, meaning Trafford is almost twice the average.
Perhaps most shockingly, 41 care facilities and 14 educational facilities across Greater Manchester are unsatisfactory, with Salford the worst borough for both.
Almost 8% of Salford care facilities are not of a sufficient food hygiene standard, whilst more than 13% of the borough’s educational facilities are rated below 3.
Only Bury and Manchester have no hygienically below-par care facilities, whilst they are joined by Rochdale and Tameside when it comes to educational provision.
In hotspot Bolton, four schools and three care premises require hygiene improvement.
St. Mary’s in Deane is the only school in Bolton to receive a Food Hygiene Rating of 1 when inspected in October 2011 – meaning that major improvement is necessary to meet standards.
Beaumont Primary (July 2011), St. Thomas’ Primary (October 2011) and Rivington & Blackrod High (September 2012) all possess ratings of 2.
Meanwhile, residential care home Blackrod House is one of two Bolton care establishments with a rating of 1, the other being Rita’s After School Club (December 2011).
Irene Burton, owner of Blackrod House – inspected in November 2011 – claimed that everything that health inspectors marked negatively had since been rectified.
“We’ve been doing an awful lot of work in our kitchen and I’m ready to invite environmental health back in to reassess us,” she said.
“We’ve done everything that they wanted us to do basically, and I would say that we would get a higher rating quite easily.”
Food Hygiene Ratings are a six-point rating system for all establishments which prepare or sell food to the public, distributed by local authorities.
92% of councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland now run the scheme, with this figure set to rise to 99% by early 2013.
Bolton Council became one of the first in the country to adopt the scheme in January 2011, and they claim that the ratings make a ‘real difference’ to consumer choice.
“Officers closely follow Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidance when carrying out inspections and calculating the risk rating,” said a council spokesman.
“We are pleased that a recent FSA report recognised the good work we do in promoting and implementing projects to improve food hygiene and safety with local businesses.”
Food safety officers score establishments based upon how food is handled, the condition of the establishment and how the business manages and records its food safety actions.
As soon as they are scored, councils give advice as to how establishments can improve, and deadlines for improvements if necessary.
Generally, the establishment can make improvements immediately and request a new assessment, though Bolton Council guidelines only allow re-rating some time after a further inspection.
Councils also have the power to shut down premises in extreme circumstances, with owners also at risk of prosecution.
Sarah Appleby, of the Food Standards Agency, said: “The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is designed so that any business can achieve the top rating of 5.
“Local authority food safety officers who carry out inspections will give advice and guidance to low-rated businesses about any improvements they need to make in order to increase their rating.
“Any improvements that businesses need to make to get a higher rating are no more than is already required of them by law.
“With the recent launch of the FSA’s free app for smartphones it’s even easier for people to check ratings, so there is a real incentive to improve for those not meeting the grade.”
All statistics were correct at the time of publishing (31/10/12).