Most people assume that when they go out to eat, the restaurant or deli they are going to is clean and safe. Even though all places that serve food get inspected and assigned a rating, most people don’t know what those ratings are. Unlike in some States in America, businesses in England do not have to display their food hygiene ratings. And, as The Scroll found out, it’s possible to get a rating of 0 out of 5 and still be allowed to stay open.
It’s possible for anyone with an internet connection to find out a business’ foot hygiene rating. By going to the Food Hygiene Ratings website (http://ratings.food.gov.uk/), users can search for ratings by typing in a business’ name or a postcode to see a list of ratings for a particular area. However, the only thing you’ll find on that site is the rating and the date that the inspection was carried out. There is no explanation for why each business got that particular rating.
So, based on a Scroll survey conducted in January of the most popular places the middle school students eat, we obtained the food hygiene reports to explain those ratings and also went to interview someone from each location. Some of the ratings and the reasons behind them might surprise you.
Pret a Manger (St. John’s Wood)
Issues highlighted by the October 2015 report:
- Ice on floor under fridge
Response from Pret A Manger:
Mr. Astrit Ibohimi, manager of the St. John’s Wood Pret a Manger, met with The Scroll on May 20 to speak about the restaurant’s most recent food hygiene rating, which was October 2015.
He explained that to address the one issue that was brought up in the report, they had engineers fix the problem with fridges.
Ibohimi also said that Pret a Manger has cleaning rules in place; the goal is to have staff clean tables one minute after a customer gets up. In addition, someone checks the toilets every 30 minutes.
Pret a Manger has an internal safety check for each of their locations each year. Last time, the St John’s Wood location got a 97/100.
Starbucks (St. John’s Wood)
Issues highlighted by the November 2011 report:
- Cleaning of surfaces in places such as the coffee machine
- Fruit flies were noted on the premises
- The seals on two refrigerators were dirty
Response from Starbucks:
Starbucks declined several opportunities to comment to The Scroll about their food hygiene report.
Chipotle (Baker Street)
Issues highlighted by the October 2014 report:
- Cross contamination via use of equipment on both raw and ready food.
- Staff training was not as thorough as Chipotle’s manual required. Especially in areas such as E Coli prevention training.
- There were food waste bins that were overflowing.
- Mouse droppings were noted in an electrics cupboard
- More pest proofing was required.
Response from Chipotle:
Mr. Jacob Sumner, who oversees of all Chipotle restaurants in England, France, and Germany, met with The Scroll on April 28 to speak about the restaurant’s most recent food hygiene rating, which at the time was from October 2014.
Since the 2014 rating, this Chipotle has undergone a great deal of work on its food hygiene standards. Sumner explained that the amount of training given to Chipotle staff has increased past what most restaurants in London have.
In response to the report, Chipotle has separated utensils for just meats (raw) and just fruits and vegetables (ready to serve). In addition, the waste bin collection was changed from just once a day to twice.
Sumner also explained that Chipotle hired a new pest company to make sure there were no pests in their restaurant. He also said that contact with The Scroll had encouraged them to contact Westminster council to ask for a new inspection. “The vast majority of our restaurants in the UK have a 5 out of 5 Food Safety rating,” said Sumner. “We believe we will get one for this restaurant as well.”
Just as we were going to press, Sumner contacted The Scroll to let us know that they had just been reinspected and had been told that they received a 5. Although the new rating has not been posted online, The Scroll contacted Westminster Council’s Food Safety Team and received confirmation that Chipotle did receive a new rating of 5 on May 23.
“We take tremendous amount of pride in assuring our customers and our crew that Chipotle restaurants are extremely safe,” said Sumner.
Panzer’s (St. John’s Wood)
Issues highlighted by the August 3, 2015 report:
- No traceability records for deli counter, smoked salmon, and salt beef.
- Four packs of Prosciutto were past their use-by date and had been re-dated.
- The use-by dates on several items were obscured by labels
- The temperatures of the fridges behind the deli counter and in the basement were too high.
- The kitchen was unclean and the structure was poor and needed renovation.
- Food debris was noted in the vegetable fridge and cupboards behind the service counter.
Issues highlighted by the February 11, 2016 report:
- Smoked salmon was being sold from deli counter without sufficient labeling attached.
- Cooked chickens were being stored at too low a temperature.
- Chickens were being stored near milk. If the chickens leaked, they would leak all over the milk cartons.
- The fridge behind the deli counter had too high a temperature.
- There was evidence of mice, particularly in the basement.
- The level of cleaning in the kitchen and deli was found to be inadequate.
Response from Panzer’s:
Mr. David Josephs, co-owner of Panzer’s, met with The Scroll on May 21 to speak about the business’ two most recent food hygiene ratings, which were August 2015 and February 2016.
Mr. Josephs explained that he bought Panzer’s two years ago from a family that had owned it for 70 years, and that it had not been modernized in a very long time. In fact, the space that Panzer’s is filling now used to actually be four different shops.
The current owners have spent more than £25,000 already on improvements. To address the issues with cleanliness and temperature control, the basement is going to be refurbished over the summer, including adding a state-of-the-art kitchen. On the ground floor, the store’s refrigerator units will be replaced during the winter of 2016-17.
Mr. Josephs explained that they have addressed the other concerns in the report as well. “We have invested substantial funds in both the implementation of a shop-wide manual for quality control and food safety, and each member of staff have been on an external training programme on food management and safety”
Although it’s taking longer than he hoped, Mr. Josephs is confident that the work they have already done and will do in the coming year will cause their rating to improve. “When our next inspection takes place after the first stage of the refurbishment in Summer 2016, my management team have been tasked with achieving a minimum grade of 4 stars, but with a target of 5 stars”
The details behind the reports
When someone goes to the Food Hygiene Ratings website (http://ratings.food.gov.uk/), the only information available is the date of a business’ latest inspection and the score they were given.
In order to get the precise details of why a restaurant received their rating, people can submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to their local council. Usually, you do not have to pay for these reports, and they will be emailed to you within four weeks. The reports are copies of the originals with names and contact information of the people interviewed blacked out.
For this investigation, The Scroll sent a request for the reports for these four businesses to Westminster Council in February. Then, we noticed that Panzer’s had been inspected a second time and had a new rating, so we submitted a request for the new report in March. Just as we were going to press for this issue, Chipotle contacted us to say that they had just received a new rating. Since we didn’t have time to wait four weeks for the official report from Westminster Council, we contacted the Food Safety Team at Westminster Council and asked if they would confirm the new rating before it went public on their website.