The towns and cities across the North East that score highest and lowest for their food hygiene ratings have been revealed, thanks to a report from online training provider High Speed Training.
The report, which analysed Food Standards Agency (FSA) data for over 218,000 food businesses across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, found that in the region, the average food hygiene rating across all food establishments was 4.59 from almost 4,000 premises, which places the region 5th in the national rankings. A similar report run in 2022 by High Speed Training calculated the North East score at 4.56, showing that food hygiene standards have improved across the region.
The top spot in the North East went to Hartlepool, with an impressive average score of 4.85 from 335 premises, placing them 4th in the national rankings for towns and cities.
The biggest improver in the region was Gateshead, who increased their rating by 0.11 from 2022, giving them an average score of 4.54, placing them 6th in the North East rankings.
The lowest average rating in the region went to Sunderland, with an average score of 4.34, meaning they rank joint 47th in the national rankings, though their rating did increase by 0.05 from 2022.
Newcastle won the Tyne-Wear derby over Sunderland with an overall average rating of 4.58 vs 4.34, ranking 4th and 9th respectively in the region. Newcastle ranked joint 26th in the national rankings for towns and cities.
High Speed Training’s report also found that more than 1 in 5 takeaways (20.7%) across the region scored 3 or below for their food hygiene rating, whilst 89% of all businesses scored a 4 or a 5.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is a partnership with local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The scheme aims to provide customers with information as to how well a business is upholding food hygiene and safety standards.
Following regular inspections, ratings are devised based on the standard of food handling hygiene, the physical condition of the premises and facilities and food safety management practices.
These ratings are then made available on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website and are usually visible from outside of the premises, often presented in a window near the entrance.
In Wales and Northern Ireland, it is compulsory for businesses to display their food hygiene rating. However, in England it is currently just considered best practice.
Paul Turner CEnvH, MCIEH, Senior Environmental Health Officer, North Yorkshire Council, said:“It’s incredibly important to take careful notice of food hygiene ratings when choosing where to eat. This information allows consumers to make informed decisions, and visit establishments that care about their safety. They also provide businesses an opportunity to show potential customers their commitment to maintaining standards. Hygiene inspections are unannounced, so they really do provide customers with a window into the kitchen.
“Food hygiene ratings are based on three broad areas - The physical condition of the premises, the food handling practices, and confidence in management. This includes staff training and the documented systems that are in place - what we might call ‘the paperwork’. All three are vital to ensuring that a business is operating safely and efficiently.
“The results that High Speed Training have found are encouraging, with 87% of premises across the UK scoring a 4 or 5, but there are always improvements that can be made. Robust food management systems, regular maintenance of the premises and correct and proper training are all needed to ensure that businesses can provide the best and most hygienic service to their customers.
Dr Richard Anderson, Head of Learning and Development at High Speed Training comments: “One of the biggest responsibilities as a food establishment is ensuring that food safety and hygiene practices are thorough and up to date. This is why it’s so important for customers to check FHRS ratings - they are a direct reflection of how safely and hygienically that establishment operates.
“Our report shows that, on average, standards remain high across the UK, and have slightly improved from 2022. For businesses that perform well, a high rating is a real selling point. However, establishments with a low hygiene rating can be extremely off-putting for customers, which ultimately have a significant impact on reputation and profitability.
“Correct food hygiene training for staff, alongside robust food management procedures and everyday good practices are crucial to keep performing at high standards.
“And for those customers turning a blind eye when it comes to checking a hygiene rating, we would definitely urge you not to as ignorance isn’t always bliss! We would always recommend checking hygiene ratings before eating at an establishment so you can make an informed call as to whether you eat there.”
To view the report in full, and to see how your area compares to others, please click here