FOOD hygiene levels have improved over the past year after an increase in the number of shops, restaurants and take-aways receiving the top marks.
Hartlepool Borough Council is part of a national scheme which aims to give people more information about the places they buy food and figures reveal there has been a rise in four and five star-rated premises.
There is also no longer any premises with a zero rating – which calls for urgent improvement.
Environmental bosses say they are pleased but warned the necessary enforcement action will be taken to ensure establishments are complying with food hygiene regulations.
The number with a five rating, or very good, has increased from 407 to 434, up to 60.9 per cent, while the number of four-star rated premises has also shot up from 139 to 164.
As a result of those increases the number rated three (generally satisfactory), has dropped from 86 to 63 and the number of two-star rated premises also dropped from 28 to 22. A total of 13 establishments in town need major improvement and were rated as 1.
Last April the council moved away from the Tees Valley Food Hygiene Award scheme, which the council has operated since April 2007, to the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS).
The FHRS scheme was launched by the Food Standards Agency as a partnership between the FSA and local authorities with the aim of helping consumers.
The ratings were discussed at a meeting of the regeneration services committee.
Sylvia Pinkney, the council’s public protection manager, said: “It is pleasing to note that 92.8 per cent of premises received a hygiene rating of three and above.
“The service is committed to focussing its resources on carrying out interventions at those businesses which are deemed not to be ‘broadly compliant’ and has liaised with businesses that have been awarded a hygiene rating of ‘2’ or less offering advice and support.
“Where necessary enforcement action will be taken to secure compliance.”
All inspections are unannounced and if officers get a complaint about a particular premises the inspection team goes straight in.
Food hygiene ratings are published online at www.food.gov.uk/ratings
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