The consumer rights group collected data from thousands of local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 2011 onwards.
The results come from individual councils’ food and safety inspections carried out in accordance with guidelines set by the Food Standards Agency.
The guidelines provide a 0-6 scale, scoring food outlets from 0 meaning “urgent improvement necessary,” to 5 meaning ‘very good.’
Although the subheading of the “Which?” article uses the word “eateries,” the data includes food outlets such as takeaways and restaurants, but also schools and hospitals.
“Which?” reported that 44 per cent of the 85 inspected outlets in the SE25 area of Croydon scored less than 3. The average score for Croydon was 2.65.
The worst in the country was Bexley with an average score of 2.62.
East London Lines spoke to the Food Safety Team at Croydon Council who said that “there are many reasons why the average ratings vary from place to place”.
The Food Safety Team suggested that there may be variation in the way in which people are grading. The spokesman said that some people may be “tougher than others.”
Croydon Council stressed that “whilst those premises with low scores do have things that they should improve they are not considered to be an immediate health risk.”
They added that “if the council does find such risks we always take immediate steps to close a business down until problems have been remedied.”
The council released a statement this month revealing that a takeaway in the Selhurst area, just outside of the SE25 postcode, received the highest food safety fine ever levied by Croydon Magistrates.
The owners were fined a total of £30,000 after failing to meet standards since 2005. However, although the “business had consistently failed to meet hygiene standards since first being visited by Croydon Council food safety officers in 2005,” it was only in November 2012 that legal action was taken.
Prior to this, notices for improvements had been made by the inspectors. Problems included cockroach and mice infestations, and “split bags of raw meat stored above and in direct contact with raw salad vegetables.”
When asked about the high percentage of low scores, The Food Safety Team commented that a low score does not necessarily reflect the hygiene of premises.
Lots of smaller businesses and owners who do not have English as their first language often do not have a proper written health and safety system and “this prevents them scoring over one on the hygiene rating system, regardless of how good they are.”
Croydon Council said that they are working with these businesses to improve their grading.
East London Lines found that the claims published by “Which?” did not correlate with information on the consumer information website “Scores On the Doors,” although both use council’s FSA data as their source.
According to a “Scores on the Doors” search in the SE25 area, only 29.94% of 167 SE25 registered food outlets scored below 3 and 27.54% scored the highest at 5. However, Scores on the Doors data is updated every day, displaying the current situation, whereas “Which?” have taken an average score over 3 years.
Food outlets are currently not required to display their rating to the public but “Which?” magazine are backing plans to make this a requirement across the UK.
Croydon Council commented that they “definitely support the idea of making display of score mandatory as this will do a lot to encourage low-scoring premises to up their game.”