Hygiene inspectors today called for failing restaurants to be forced to display their low cleanliness ratings.
The call came from the Food Standards Agency as records it stores show that more than a dozen establishments across the Portsmouth area have the lowest possible hygiene score.
The FSA says it plans to urge the next Government to make it compulsory for restaurants and other establishments to prominently display their latest rating - even if they have a rock-bottom 0.
Catrina Stewart, head of the food hygiene ratings team at the FSA, said: ‘It’s about telling people what the standards of food hygiene are in restaurants and takeaways and other places at the time they are inspected.
‘That inspection is looking at how well they are complying with the law on food hygiene, which is in place to ensure that the food that is sold and served to us is safe to eat.’
Her team is responsible for regular inspections across the country.
From chip shops to hospital kitchens, cafes to bed and breakfasts, all establishments preparing and selling food must be inspected by public health officials.
And today we can reveal how clean your favourite restaurants, takeaways and cafes really are from figures obtained on March 27 from the FSA’s records.
Each establishment is given a star rating out of five, with zero being the lowest ranking and five the highest.
The vast majority have either four or five stars, showing that overall the law is being upheld.
It’s about telling people what the standards of food hygiene are in restaurants and takeaways and other places at the time they are inspectedCatrina Stewart, FSA
That was emphasised by Robert New, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for environment and community safety, after a series of high-profile prosecutions in the city earlier this year.
Cllr New said: ‘Our officers spend most of their time educating food businesses and helping them to improve.
‘If restaurants fail to improve and consistently put the public at risk then we may have to resort to court action.
‘We’re pleased that the quality of our food businesses is generally excellent, with more than 60 per cent achieving the highest possible five rating.
‘In the last 12 months only 0.2 per cent of premises have had to be prosecuted for hygiene offences.’
The FSA’s records show that among eight Portsmouth establishments currently on a zero rating is the Water Margin restaurant at Gunwharf Quays.
John Waits, chairman of the Water Margin restaurant group, said: ‘The zero rating is effectively a technicality.
‘The rating was suspended because on the day of the inspection we had no hot water, which was due to a tripping of the hot water system.
‘That was fixed the same day. The environmental health officer from Portsmouth City Council came at 10am the following morning and the restaurant was reopened.
‘But because of the technicality we have our rating suspended, which gives us a zero rating.
‘We have appealed and also asked for a reassessment. We hope that will be done in early April.
‘It is frustrating, and of course it is difficult to explain to people - people instinctively assume there is something more sinister than it actually is.’
Follow the links below for our comprehensive list of every food hygiene rating across the Portsmouth area