A crackdown is being launched to tackle the growing number of poor food hygiene outlets in Hyndburn.
Council food safety teams will inspect more than 130 premises over the next seven months with a zero, one or two Food Standards Agency (FSA) rating to ‘bring them up to standard’.
The Observer reported earlier this year how the borough was named as the ‘country’s capital of poor food hygiene’ with the highest proportion of zero graded takeaways and sandwich shops.
Last year we also revealed how Hyndburn had seen a five-fold increase in 12 months in the number of food outlets receiving an FSA score of zero.
Under the new ‘zero tolerance’ scheme premises with a grade lower than three will be inspected before March 2018 with targeted workshops, mentoring and coaching for ‘non-compliant premises’.
Deputy council leader Paul Cox, cabinet member for environmental services, said the crackdown will help close ‘gaps in the system for people to exploit’.
Speaking at a recent cabinet meeting, he said: “By using targeted education rather than enforcement and working proactively with these low-scoring premises, this authority will look to positively improve food safety scores in these few remaining low-scoring outlets.
“It might seem like it’s zero-tolerance but the key thing is when you meet the food safety team they do have high standards and do mark realistically.
“We feel that we are trying to bring everybody up to the bar rather than leaving gaps in the system for people to exploit.”
Council leader Miles Parkinson said the action taken by the council will help restore public confidence in food ratings.
He told the meeting: “The public want us to make sure that where we feel things aren’t up to standard then there is a zero rating and to then make sure it’s then fully investigated.
“We want all our establishments to have a good rating but, like exams, you don’t want ratings that don’t mean anything.
“They must mean something.
“Hyndburn wants to make sure that when we deliver a five-star food establishment that people believe it and that it isn’t just a tick-box exercise.”
Conservative group leader Tony Dobson said: “I welcome it and I think it is the right thing to do.”