Friday, 2 December 2011

Eat out safely this Christmas - look before you book!

Lancaster City Council is encouraging everyone making plans for festive gatherings to check the hygiene rating score of your restaurant, hotel or pub.

With Christmas fast approaching, plans are being made for celebrations with family, friends and work colleagues and the council advises that when checking out the menu it’s wise to check out the food hygiene rating as well.

Good food hygiene is getting easier to spot these days since the recent introduction of the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Restaurants, pubs, hotels, (as well as cafes, takeaways and other places that sell or serve food) are now being rated from 0 - 5 on their hygiene standards when a food hygiene inspection is carried out by Lancaster City Council.

It’s easy to check out the ratings by looking them up online at: www.food.gov.uk/ratings

Christmas party goers can also look out for the distinctive green and black stickers that businesses are encouraged to display at their outlets to tell their customers the rating they were given.

“When dining out, you’ll choose to go to a place where you like the food and you know you’ll have a good time," says Coun Karen Leytham, Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental health. "It makes sense to look before you book and check out the food hygiene rating as well.

"Nobody wants to have their Christmas festivities ruined and as far as food hygiene ratings go there’s safety in numbers - so it’s good to know.”

The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is not, the Council is keen to point out, a guide to food quality. When the business is inspected by Lancaster City Council, the food safety officer will look at how well the business is meeting the law on food hygiene. This includes how hygienically the food is handled in preparation, cooking, cooling and storage; the condition and structure of the building including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, equipment etc, and how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.

Any business should be able to achieve the top rating of ‘5’. If not, local authority food safety officers will explain to the person who owns or manages the business if improvements need to be made; what they are and how they can achieve a higher rating.

• As the Scheme is still relatively new, not all food businesses will have a rating yet and will therefore not be listed on the website: www.food.gov.uk/ratings

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