Consumer Editor Emma McKinney looked at some of the poorest restaurants to be inspected during the past 12 months.
Birmingham City Council’s environmental health officers in restaurants and premises that serve food have been translated into H scores – similar to a star rating system.
Zero Hs means poor and five Hs means excellent hygiene standards. The score takes into account general cleaning standards, control of pests, prevention of food poisoning, temperature control, washing facilities, the state of repair of the premises, how well the business is being managed and the level of food safety management systems. More than 7,000 food outlets in Birmingham have their ratings on website www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk and the score is only updated when the next full inspection is carried out.
Around the World in 80 Dishes, Brindleyplace
RATING: ZERO H
When the restaurant was given its last full inspection on October 27, 2009, it was ordered to undergo a thorough clean, particularly the chiller and bar area, removing mouse droppings that had been found and it was told to employ a pest controller.
Inspectors described how customers were being put at risk, with cold food being served in the restaurant that was not refrigerated.
“I witnessed a member of staff topping up a meat dish of kebabs,” she added. “The fresh hot food was placed on top of the food that had been on display for some time – which means that high risk food could be left at the bottom of the serving dish all evening at an incorrect temperature.”
Inspector Gemma Harvey said in the salad kitchen sinks were dirty and she didn’t see any salad vegetables being washed prior to preparation.
“The entire pot wash room was mouldy and dirty, which is wholly unacceptable,” she added.
Problems were also found in the washing up area, with the dishwasher was not being used and instead the washing up was being done in “luke warm” water.
Ms Harvey said: “Four subsequent visits were made by our team following the initial inspection and on the last revisit in May 2010, if I could have rescored the premises it would have come out as three Hs.”
Dal Singh, proprietor of the restaurant, said since the inspection the company had spent £1,200 on new equipment and was working towards a rating of five Hs at the next inspection.
“We work tirelessly to ensure we have very high levels of cleanliness and we have done everything asked and more to improve our standards,’’ he said.
The Oriental Bar Restaurant, The Mailbox
RATING: ONE H
During the inspection in October 2009, squid, prawns, minced pork and rice noodles were being kept in the fridge, despite being past their use-by date and mussels, chicken wings and scallops were being kept in the freezer without labels to ensure they were not being kept for too long.
An inspector described how she found chicken being defrosted in a water on a sink overnight and a bottle of brown sauce had burst in the dry good store, covering a pipe in the floor which had a number of flies hovering over it.
The cover of the ice machine was missing, with “slime” found inside it.
The ice cream and cake refrigerators were found to be frosted up and dirty and a cupboard was described as being made of unsealed wood, which was badly stained by grease and could not be cleaned.
Michael Oliver, operations manager at the restaurant, declined to comment.
Little Stars Day Nursery, Nechells Park Road, Nechells
RATING: ONE H
During the inspection in January, inspectors found old mouse droppings in the preschool kitchen and bike storeroom and instructed staff to cease using the kitchen until the area was cleaned, disinfected and sanitised.
A pest controller was ordered to come to the premises and staff were told to plug gaps and holes where mice could enter. Temperatures of the food stored in the fridge were too high, which could put children at risk of food poisoning, added the inspector, and staff were seen washing their hands in the nappy changing rooms and toilets.
John James, chief executive of Nechells Regeneration Project, which runs the nursery, said: “I accept the situation found was unacceptable but all issues have been addressed and we have since improved our cleaning and monitoring system. I want to reassure parents that no child was put at risk and I don’t want them to worry about sending their children to the nursery.”
Athens, Paradise Circus
RATING: ONE H
On September 3, 2009, an inspector found that no “food safety management system” was in place at the time of the inspection, which ensures staff are aware of essential skills when handling food, including personal hygiene, temperature control, cross contamination and cleaning procedures.
It was told it must provide proof it was handling and serving food according to the regulations within three days. Doors were being kept open and bosses were told to ensure they were kept closed to prevent pests from getting into them.
The restaurant was told to complete a “deep clean” of the premises, including the kitchen and storage areas.
Copies of food hygiene certificates were missing for some members of staff.
The premises have since been revisited on four occasions and inspectors said following the final revisit in February they are now satisfied changes have been made to meet the standards required for three Hs.
Savas Sfrantzis, owner of the restaurant, said: “I’ve been running the restaurant for more than 25 years and we have never had any complaints.
‘‘I can assure customers all our staff have had all the required training and we are dedicated to keeping the restaurant clean.”
Golden Pond, The Arcadian
RATING: ONE H
During the inspection on July 15, 2009, inspectors found that there was no records to show that routine cleaning checks had been made at the restaurant for three months.
Inspectors also found missing records that would not confirm staff had been adequately trained in health and safety.
Food was found stored against regulations, on the floor in the walk-in chiller and freezer, leaving it exposed to possible contamination.
Raw food was being kept in the wrong parts of the fridge, instead of below cooked or ‘ready to eat’ food.
Restaurant bosses were told to complete a comprehensive cleaning schedule and do a clean-up of the kitchen, particularly the equipment, floors, walls and hard to reach areas.
Staff were also told to stop preparing large amounts of food that could not be stored according to environmental health legislation.
The premises was revisited twice since the initial inspection, and council bosses said that on the last revisit in April they found “great improvement” and the restaurant would now be awarded with three Hs.
A spokesman for the restaurant said: “Most of the problems were about missing paperwork rather than cleanliness but we have since addressed all issues and we will continue to strive for the highest possible standards for our customers.”
Tudor Views Care Home, Hinstock Rod, Handsworth
RATING: ONE H
During the inspection on September 29, 2009, inspectors found screens were needed to be put on the kitchen door and windows to prevent flies from getting in.
In the main kitchen, the inspector found that the floor was in a poor condition, with evidence of dirt and debris. The inspector asked for the main kitchen and outside store room to have a thorough clean as dirt and debris were found in the cupboards, behind equipment and in hard to reach areas.
The kitchen cupboards were in a poor state of repair, with large holes and gaps. The sealing around the pot wash sink was old and grubby. Food was being stored at too high temperatures in the fridge.
The inspector said that the premises had “improved greatly” since the inspection, although there was still not a food safety management system fully in place.
No one at the care home was available for comment.