Merton food businesses reach for the stars

Restaurants and cafés in Merton with the lowest food hygiene ratings have been given special measures treatment in order to help them improve their businesses.

Merton Council is already part of the London Scores on the Doors food hygiene scheme whereby local food businesses are rated on a five star hygiene system. Now the council is taking action to bring the standards of the borough’s poorest performing restaurants and cafes up to scratch. Businesses with the lowest food hygiene ratings will therefore be subjected to the special measures programme.

Piloted last year (2008) in Merton, the special measures programme increases the number of environmental health officers attending premises from one to two. A plan of improvements is agreed in conjunction with the owner of the food outlet, giving businesses the chance to take forward and make the changes required for them to improve their rating. There is also the chance for them to receive health and hygiene advice and training.

When the programme was first launched, 36 businesses were targeted all of which had either no stars (very poor) or one star (poor). There has since been a dramatic improvement by 21 of these: six are now rated two stars, 14 have improved to three stars and one has improved to four stars.

Of the remaining 15 premises, one has been prosecuted; nine premises have closed or been taken over by new owners and five are at various stages of improvement.

A Nationwide star-rating scheme is currently being discussed. It is hoped that future legislation will require food businesses to display their star rating. In the meantime scores for Merton premises and for premises in other London Boroughs partaking in the scheme can be found on the Your London website at http://www.yourlondon.gov.uk

Merton Council’s cabinet member for environment and leisure services, Councillor David Simpson said, ‘This special measures scheme makes good use of the council’s limited resources by targeting the worst premises. By driving improvements in the most risky businesses we are putting the needs of residents first whilst also helping these businesses feel proud of the service they can deliver to their customers in the future.

“We are lucky to have a diverse variety of restaurants in Merton and we want to ensure that people dining in the borough can do so safe in the knowledge that their food has been prepared in the cleanest of establishments.”

ENDS

The Scores on the Doors system transfers food hygiene scores into stars.

The star ratings are:

5 stars – excellent

4 stars – very good

3 stars – good

2 stars – broadly compliant

1 star – poor

0 star – very poor