Time For Display of Food Hygiene Ratings to Become Mandatory

I was recently unfortunate enough to experience a food poisoning incident that lasted for the best part of 2 weeks.  Whilst it is impossible to be 100% certain, the most likely source of infection was a meal at a pizzeria in London’s West End.  It has a food hygiene rating of 2, meaning “Improvement Necessary”.

Reporting the Problem

I have used the Reporting Tool on the FSA site to report this incident to Westminster Council for investigation.

However, it would have been more helpful if I had known the hygiene rating of this outlet beforehand.

Normally I do not go into any eatery unless it has a 4 or 5 rating displayed outside.  On this occasion I had met a friend after work who recommended this pizzeria, as he had eaten there before.  If I had known it had a 2 hygiene rating, I would never have entered the premises.

Food Poisoning is Not Just an Upset Stomach

Many people seem to think that food poisoning is just being sick overnight after a dodgy meal or having a touch of “Spanish tummy” the next morning.  Whilst those can be symptoms of food that was not good to eat, food poisoning can be much more serious than that.

Some forms of food poisoning can leave you unwell for between 1 & 2 weeks.  In more extreme cases people have been left with long-term disabilities and about 100 people a year in the UK die as a result of campylobacter, one of the more serious bugs around.

Just to give you an idea, here’s a quick “diary” from the above food poisoning incident:

  • Monday (week 1): Ate suspect meal in the evening.
  • Tuesday: Felt a little tired but otherwise OK.
  • Wednesday: Flu-type symptoms, headache, diarrhoea.
  • Thursday: Flu-type symptoms, headache, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, some vomiting, shivering under a blanket and too ill to even work from home.  Took first day off work in 12 years!
  • Friday: Flu-type symptoms, headache, stomach cramps.
  • Sat – Thu (week 2): Stomach cramps, intermittent diarrhoea.

Time to Make Display Mandatory

There is no excuse for poor food hygiene in this day and age.  A wealth of knowledge about how to safely store and prepare food is available on the internet, on TV, in books and courses.

It is high time that the law changed so that businesses are forced to display their hygiene rating prominently in their window.

Avoiding Food Poisoning

Until the relevant authorities get their act together and protect consumers by making food outlets display their hygiene rating, here are some ways in which you can reduce the risk of food poisoning when eating out:

  • If you know in advance where you are going to eat, you can check out their rating on the Food Standards Agency website.
  • Anyone with a smartphone can download an app to check ratings from the above website.
  • For the spontaneous eater who lacks a smartphone, the following is a good rule of thumb: Businesses with a 4 or 5 hygiene rating – i.e. good / very good – will usually be happy to display their rating.  Those who do not have a rating on display probably got a low score.

So, if you choose outlets that display 4 or 5 hygiene rating and avoid ones that do not display a rating, you should have a better chance of not suffering the same unpleasant experience I did.