The Food Standards Agency operates a national food hygiene rating system, popularly known as 'Scores on the Doors' under which all retail food outlets are tested for cleanliness by local authority environmental health staff. The outlets are then given a rating, based on the findings. These are usually available for public scrutiny on the authority and council's websites.
Newham is gradually moving over to this system and its results will be available 'live' in a month or so. We have, however, been given early access to the ratings for fast food shops and restaurants along Woodgrange Road, and a pretty mixed bunch of findings are revealed.
Under the scheme, the inspectors are not concerned with food quality or value for money, but solely with food hygiene. They test for three main areas:
• how hygienically the food is handled,
• what the conditions of the building are like for food hygiene, and
• how effective record keeping is, to ensure food hygiene.
The inspectors then give an overall star rating to the premises, based on their findings. These are simple to understand:
• 5 stars - Very good
• 4 stars - Good
• 3 stars - Generally satisfactory
• 2 stars - Improvement needed
• 1 star - Major improvements needed
• 0 stars - Urgent improvement needed
Regardless of the number of stars awarded, if the inspectors have major concerns over any of the three areas examined, they can determine that the premises was "non-compliant" with their overall expectations, at the time of the inspection.
Inspectors take the owners/managers of the premises through their findings and point to ways in which they can improve hygiene levels, up to the 5 star level, after each visit. Inspections are conducted regularly, and are unannounced.
There is a high turnover of food premises ownership and control, and the Environmental Health officials struggle to keep up with the changes in control/ownership and management. They hope to have all their findings, not just for restaurants, but for all other retail food premises in the borough available for public inspection on both the Newham Council and FSA websites by the end of the year.
Wandering along Woodgrange Road, from Romford Road, the food premises and their most recent ratings are:
Forest Cafe - 61 Woodgrange Road
Meanwhile, details of two other catering initiatives on Woodgrange Road
The Forest Tavern, which has had such a dramatic impact - for the better - on the local pub scene since it opened recently will be adding to the culinary offer locally, by opening its restaurant on 7 November.
Secondly, The Observer's food critic, Jay Rayner made a valiant stab at promoting the recent Box Chicken trial on Woodgrange Road, in his article in the paper's magazine on 27 October.
But it made a pretty depressing read. He revealed that:
• The fried chicken market, nationally, is worth between £15bn - £20bn p.a.
• There are 70 fried chicken shops in Newham. No secondary school is more than 500 metres from one.
• The Box Chicken van was an initiative aimed at prompting healthier eating, by selling less fatty, more wholesome and flavoursome foods than the local chicken shop options, promoted by a not for profit organisation We Are What We Do.
|Box Chicken, experiment on|
Woodgrange Road, for a month
• The most enthusiasm expressed for the Box Chicken initiative on Rayner's two visits came from students from St Angela's, who were clearly encouraged by the school staff to act as cheer leaders for the experiment during his tours.
• Most depressingly: "We've seen all these chicken deals for 99p, why would kids spend £2.50 on the alternative."