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Eating out in the UK is a ‘postcode Lottery' when it comes to food safety

10 May 2006

Eating out in the UK is a "postcode lottery" because most restaurant hygiene scores are not made public, a consumer group said today.

Diners are unaware of cleanliness levels at the majority of food outlets, according to Which?

The consumer group is calling for all local authorities to publish their restaurant and take-away hygiene inspection results.

It says only 2% currently do so, although all of them carry out hygiene inspections.

A Which? survey of more than 2,000 adults across Britain found that 97% of respondents felt "entitled" to know how local restaurants had scored.

Seven out of eight interviewees wanted the information displayed before they entered the restaurant - so called "scores on doors".

Nine out of 10 respondents thought scores should be available to the public online.

Some 15% of those questioned blamed eating out on an illness suffered by them or someone in their household during the past year.

Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said publishing hygiene inspection scores would give consumers more confidence in restaurants and take-aways.

"The way things stand, unless you are prepared to become a hygiene inspector yourself, you've got no way of knowing whether eating in your local restaurant is a risk worth taking," she said.

Which? wants the Food Standards Agency to administer one central website where every local council will publish all hygiene inspection reports.

The Food Standards Agency said it supported any move to help consumers make informed choices about food and to "increase transparency" in hygiene standards.

A spokesman said: "The Agency is planning to trial a variety of schemes with the aim of rolling out a consistent, nationwide programme to provide this information to consumers.

"These trials, involving more than 40 local authorities, will begin in the autumn."

Which? commissioned a telephone survey of 2,075 adults carried out by ICM Research.

by Louise Barnett at PA News

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