A study by Which? has found takeaways and restaurants in Edinburgh are among the worst in the UK for hygiene failings.
A higher proportion of restaurants, cafes and takeaways fail to meet required standards in Edinburgh than anywhere else in the UK apart from the London borough of Enfield.
Restaurateurs today hit back at the research, branding it “nonsense” and insisting that failing Food Standards Agency (FSA) tests didn’t mean kitchens were unclean.
The report, which also looked at other organisations which serve food such as hospitals and care homes, used the latest data submitted to the FSA to compile a league table.
It found almost a third (32 per cent) in the Capital failed to reach the hygiene levels set out by the FSA and were rated “Improvement Required” by local authority inspectors.
More than 30 takeaways and restaurants in Edinburgh fell foul of council inspectors between 2013 and 2014, but the council said that it was taking a more proactive approach than other local authorities.
Which? spokesman Gordon MacRae said: “Our research reveals a shocking postcode lottery on food hygiene where in some places you may as well toss a coin before deciding which restaurant to trust with your health.
“Tackling food enforcement has to be a priority for Scottish Ministers and the new food agency, Food Standards Scotland, when it comes into being in April.”
However, Malcolm Duck, chairman of the Edinburgh Restaurateurs Association, said: “This survey is nonsense and I think it just causes great alarm to the public. If you get a ‘needs improvement’, it means you have a few little things that need sorted out, it doesn’t mean you have a dangerous kitchen, by a long way.
“I’ve worked in this industry for 25 years. We’re pretty clean and tidy. I can almost guarantee you that if you look at any domestic kitchen, it would be told it needs improvement.”
The city’s community safety leader, Councillor Cammy Day, said the council had a rigorous inspection regime.
“The City of Edinburgh Council is the top performing local authority in Scotland in terms of taking formal enforcement action against premises that are a risk to health.
“We have a policy of focusing our interventions on food businesses that pose a significant risk of contamination, to prevent serious infections such as E coli.
“We have been very successful in lowering the overall risk of these contaminations and raising food hygiene standards throughout the city.
“It is therefore very misleading to compare our overall number of interventions with that of other local authorities who have not adopted this more targeted approach.”
STRINGENT RULES TARGET THE DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
Food businesses in Scotland are government by rules set out by the European Union and enforced by local authorities following guidelines from the UK Food Standards Agency.
Premises must be kept clean and free from pests, food must be stored at the right temperatures, and any chemicals stored safely away from food preparation areas. Rules also govern the location of toilets, ventilation, sinks, lighting and drainage, as well as materials used for kitchen walls, ceilings and floors.
Businesses also must document the ways in which they manage food safety on their premises, with paperwork, procedures and risk assessments also looked at by inspectors. Following an inspection, businesses can be issued a pass, a “needs improvement” notice followed by another inspection, or a fail, which would see the business shut.
Three fell foul of the inspectors
While the Which? report did not give any specific examples, there have been a number of cases involving city restaurants in the past year.
The Tikka Masala Indian Takeaway on the Pleasance was banned from serving food for two weeks after inspectors found it was overrun with mice. They described it as “filthy and verminous”.
The owners declined to comment at the time. The restaurant is now under new management and staff said there had been no issues since it re-opened.
The Pine Tree Bakery, on Home Street, was found to have “foul water coming up through the floor into the bakery”, while at Queen’s Spice, on High Street, South Queensferry, officers found the entire food production process was not protected against contamination.
Queen’s Spice said it had addressed the issues raised. No-one from the Pine Tree Bakery could be reached for comment.