One In Seven UK Takeaways Fail Food Hygiene Tests

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The Law Of... ensuring food is safe to eat

As many as 1 in 13 restaurants and 1 in 7 takeaways in the UK have failed food hygiene procedures, a report by The Guardian has claimed.

The Law Of... ensuring food is safe to eat

Examining food hygiene reports for 460,000 businesses, the newspaper found that almost 30,000 had failed inspections by the Food Standards Agency.

Responding to the report, Dawn Rose – Solicitor on Simpson Millar's Personal Injury team – explains the legal implications of falling ill while eating out.

Failed Inspections

The Food Standards Agency conducts inspections on food businesses, to ensure that there are adhering to food safety guidelines. Once an audit has been conducted, the business will receive a score from 0-5, with 5 being the best score and anything lower than 3 being considered a fail.

A score of 0 indicates that the business "urgently requires improvement"about 1,400 businesses across the UK have this score.

Analysing data from the Food Standards Agency showed disparity in the level of hygiene maintained by food businesses across the UK, with some areas failing more than 20% of all businesses and about 50% of takeaway and sandwich shops.

Despite the guidelines and ranking criteria being the same across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – with Scotland employing a slightly different level breakdown – there are variations between the number of failing grades handed out in each region.

In Scotland, 10% of establishments were awarded a failing grade, while this number stood at 6% for England, 5% in Wales, and just 2% in Northern Ireland.

Generally, takeaways fared worse during inspections, as 32 local authorities failed more than 25% of takeaways in their area – over half of takeaways in Newham, East London, received a failing score.

Product Liability & Food Poisoning

The concerning figures highlight the sheer amount of food establishments that employ poor levels of cleanliness and hygiene.

The concern in such eateries is the chance of food poisoning, with the food hygiene rating considering, amongst other things, how hygienically the food is handled and how the business ensures that food is safe.

Businesses with a low hygiene rating could increase the risk of food poisoning, as food may be handled in an unhygienic manner, or the procedures to ensure that food is safe may not be fit for purpose.

Food poisoning falls under product liability law, which states that business have a duty to ensure that products are safe and will not cause injury, illness, or any other kind of harm to consumers.

Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, any business that serves food have a duty to ensure their products are free from any harmful bacteria that could cause food poisoning – this is usually achieved by ensuring that food is cooked thoroughly.

Under regulations, food retailers are bound by strict liability; this means that actual fault, namely negligence or intent to harm, is not a necessity for establishing blame.

In cases of strict liability, the claimant only needs to establish that the defendant was responsible for causing harm, which in the example of an unsafe takeaway would involve causing food poisoning to a customer.

Food Poisoning Compensation

Food poisoning can have devastating effects on sufferers, with some cases requiring medical attention and a prescription of antibiotics before severe symptoms are alleviated.

Even in less severe cases, food poisoning can lead to days off from work, which means that a patient suffers financial loss because of a failure of a food retailer to adhere to guidelines.

In these instances, a compensation claim can help with a patient's recovery and can recuperate the loss caused by the food poisoning, as Dawn explains:

"The stark figures from the Food Standards Agency are deeply unsettling, as they represent a significant number of food retailers could be endangering consumers."

"In some areas, consumers have more chance of going into a takeaway that's failed an inspection than one that has passed."

"Food poisoning is usually associated with poor hygiene and incorrectly storing food stuffs can cause bacteria to spread and can result in severe symptoms for diners."

"Many people believe that as the symptoms of food poisoning normally clear up after a couple of days there's no chance to seek compensation, however this is not the case and because of the implication of strict liability, food poisoning claims are relatively straightforward to pursue. This means that consumers that had to have time off work to recover from food poisoning can recuperate their financial loss caused by an errant food retailer."


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