Food hygiene ratings are always a hit because we love our takeaways: OPINION

Food hygiene ratings provide great copy for journalists
Food hygiene ratings provide great copy for journalists
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Ask a local newspaper editor to identify the stories guaranteed to make their readers sit up and they’ll reel off murder, town hall incompetence, duplicitous politicians and anything remotely saucy. 

Another one to add to the list is the now perennial special report listing the food hygiene levels of local takeaways and restaurants.

It might not sound like a sexy tale to rank alongside naughty vicars and deviant celebrities, but this story is the gift that keeps giving for those poor devils tasked with keeping the news treadmill running. 

Having been one of those aforementioned poor devils for well over a decade, I grew to love the ‘iffy takeaway list’, as it became known in one particular newsroom I worked in.

It was a little more than 10 years ago I first encountered hygiene ratings provided by local authorities on behalf of the Food Standards Agency.

A top score of five is what every self-respecting restaurateur or kebab shop owner aspires to and will proudly display the distinctive green sticker in their front window should they hit those heights.

When we first ran the list of shame we always focused our coverage on the places with scores of zero or one.

The response went beyond the feedback we received for most other stories.

The reason for such fierce public interest is that we all love a takeaway.

The numbers bear it out – in 2018, Brits spent a mouth-watering £9.8bn on ordering in something hot and greasy. With the arrival of online ordering websites, takeaways are now bigger business than ever before.

In England there is nothing to compel owners to display a hygiene rating and, let’s be honest, they aren’t going to if the score in question screams ‘our chefs don’t wash their hands when they have been to the toilet’.

The food buying public doesn’t do itself any favours – sometimes we are so tired and hungry we couldn’t care less how clean the kitchens are.

Clearly more needs to be done to eradicate bad food from our high streets but, until it does happen, there will be plenty of rich pickings for local journalists.