Birmingham among UK's worst food hygiene areas for second year in a row

Birmingham and Hyndburn have been named as the UK’s worst areas for food hygiene. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Birmingham and Hyndburn have been named as the UK’s worst areas for food hygiene for the second year running.

They failed to come up to scratch across a range of areas including the number of high and medium-risk food businesses which keep to hygiene standards, the amount of premises which opened but were not visited or given a risk rating, as well as the number of interventions that had to be carried out, according to a study by Which?.

Birmingham City Council had a poor record for carrying out inspections within 28 days of a food business opening, with 16% of the city’s more than 8,000 food businesses yet to be rated, according to the consumer group’s report.

They also found that 43% of Birmingham’s high and medium-risk food businesses did not meet food compliance standards.

Mark Croxford, of Birmingham City Council, said: “The quality of food businesses in Birmingham is not a measure or reflection of the council’s performance.

“I am surprised and disappointed to see Which? have made the same mistake as they have done in previous years, in failing to engage with local authorities to produce a meaningful report."

He described the high number of new food businesses opening in Birmingham as “a significant challenge”, stating that more than 1,000 new food businesses were registered in Birmingham in 2016/17.

Hyndburn Borough Council, the Lancashire region which counts Accrington as the biggest town, was the second worst area in the UK for food hygiene in 2016/17.

Which? said that 98% of its businesses had been rated for risk, but just two in five of its medium and high-risk food businesses met hygiene standards, compared with 98% in Harrogate, which is about an hour away in North Yorkshire.

The top 10 ranked local authorities are (1-10):

  • Erewash

  • Basingstoke and Deane

  • Sunderland

  • North Dorset

  • South Kesteven

  • Brentwood

  • West Dorset

  • Staffordshire and Moorlands

  • Conwy

  • Orkney Islands

Lowest 10 ranked local authorities are:

  • Birmingham

  • Hyndburn

  • Camden

  • Croydon

  • Isles of Scilly

  • Falkirk

  • Glasgow

  • Edinburgh

  • Lewisham

  • Waltham Forest

Which? looked at data for 390 local authorities. Credit: PA

Which? looked at data for 390 local authorities including information from the Local Authority Monitoring System (LAEMS), collected by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Erewash Borough Council, in East Derbyshire, was rated top for the second year in a row just ahead of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, in Hampshire.

Erewash carried out planned actions on all failing premises and 97% of its medium and high-risk establishments were compliant with hygiene standards.

The consumer champion also believes that Brexit could deliver another blow to standards. It states the Government, which is under pressure to safeguard current food standards, will need to step up checks on imports and potentially look to negotiate trade deals with countries with lower food standards.

Which? states there was one food hygiene enforcement officer per 403 food businesses amid a rising amount of complaints about hygiene and quality in 2016/17.

There has also been a 5.5% rise in the number of food premises yet to be rated compared with two years previously. This means that in 2016/17, 1,697 more businesses were running without a food hygiene rating compared to 2014/15, according to Which?

Alex Neill, of Which?, said: “When it comes to food, British consumers expect the very best standards for themselves and their families.

“But our enforcement regime is under huge strain, just as Brexit threatens to add to the responsibilities of struggling local authorities.

“Effective food enforcement must be a government priority, including robust checks on imports as well as co-operation with the EU and other countries on food risks”.