A recent study has revealed that most of the Indian and Chinese take aways in the UK posed a significant risk to public health because of poor hygiene standards.
The research commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FAS) said that most Indian, Chinese, kebab shops, fried chicken, burger bars and fish and chip outlets were dirty and posed health hazards.
Worrying conditions ranged from staff handling food without washing their hands after visiting the toilet to infestations of mice, rats and cockroaches.
The result, as many as 1.3 million Britons were struck by food poisoning every year which, led to fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. In some rare cases, bugs such as salmonella, campylobacter and ecoli also caused serious complications leading to paralysis and death.
The FSA survey involved around 5,000 catering outlets across 316 local authorities across the UK and carried out by council environmental health officers. Findings revealed more than one in ten - 13percent of all outlets 'showed major noncompliance with statutory hygiene obligations'.
Some seven percent of the take aways were placed in the 'high risk to public health' category, and 18.5 percent in the ‘significant risk to public health' category.
“Within caterers, take-aways were the group with the highest risk to public health,” the Daily Mail quoted the FSA as saying.
Findings further revealed that 12 percent of the establishments surveyed had low standards of hand washing facilities. The hygiene knowledge of staff in one in ten outlets was also considered poor or very poor, with five per cent of catering managers having little or no awareness of hazards linked to cleaning, cooking and cross-contamination.
Public Health groups believe the FSA findings will now strengthen demands for a new 'scores on the doors' system of logos for take-aways and other outlets to alert consumers to hygiene standards. Trials are already in operation in some areas where local councils are making the results of restaurant hygiene inspections available over the Internet.
However, consumer and public health groups believe it would be far better if all catering establishments are required to put up logos identifying their hygiene levels.
“Food poisoning is a serious public health issue and we need to look at new ways of tackling it. Clearly armed with this basic information, UK consumers would be able to exercise choice about where they eat based not only on the menu but also on knowing how conscientious the restaurants they choose to frequent are in maintaining good food hygiene,” said the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
“The public has a right to know what health inspections discover. Well run restaurants have nothing to fear - and much to gain - from public scrutiny,” said Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, who used his Freedom of Information Act powers to glean information about the hygiene scores in restaurants from some councils.