'There is always room for improvement' says restaurant as figures reveal more than 100 warnings were given to Preston food businesses last year
Traders in Preston were slapped with written warnings on food hygiene issues more than 100 times last year - but the council says that local businesses still have a 'high level of compliance'
The Food Standards Agency carries out planned visits to businesses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure they are complying with food safety and hygiene laws.
And FSA data shows that 110 informal written warnings were handed out to food businesses across Preston in 2019-20.
Preston council previously announced they had suspended the food hygiene scheme at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic but confirmed that they had been offering guidance to hospitality premises in the city on the best way to manage Covid-19 and implement appropriate controls.
Cllr Peter Moss, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for planning and resources previously told the Post: “Food businesses in Preston have a very high level of compliance, with 97 per cent having an acceptable food hygiene rating of 3 or more and 75 per cent achieving the highest rating of five.
"This is the result of close work between the council and businesses to help achieve our shared goal of Preston businesses being safe and successful.
If a business is not meeting requirements the agency can take a range of actions, from informal steps such as advice and guidance or a written warning, to closure or even prosecution in the most serious cases.
Salvatore's Ristorate, on Liverpool Road, Penwortham, is one of the local restaurants that has continuously been awarded five-star rating, but manager Francesca Vivace says that there 'is always room for improvement'.
It was also voted as Lancashire's best Italian restaurant in 2017 and 2018.
She said: "We have a good relationship with our Environmental Health Officer and take all of their advice on board when it comes to what could be improved. Even when you have a five-star rating there is always room for improvement.
"We also invest time and money ensuring our staff are fully trained. They undertake online training courses which have regular updates to reflect any changes to the legislation and food standards.
"Our Head Chef has worked for us for over seventeen years and he has always ensured that standards remain high. Food hygiene is something that we take very seriously to ensure that our guests feel safe and comfortable dining with us."
Any potential breach of food hygiene regulations can prompt an informal warning, including problems with cleanliness, record-keeping and separation of cooked and raw foods.
Officials consider the seriousness of the case, as well as the co-operation of the business, before deciding on what further action to take.
And last year inspectors took formal enforcement action against traders on two occasions, including a voluntary closure.
In total, 151,300 written warnings were handed out across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year, and 4,800 formal enforcement actions were taken.
While the latest figures only cover a small period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FSA said the crisis created "unprecedented challenges for local authorities in delivering their statutory food functions”, with councils advised to postpone some planned inspections during the first national lockdown period.
Maria Jennings, director of regulatory compliance at the FSA, said: “Whilst the latest figures are not dissimilar to those from in 2018-19, we acknowledge that Covid-19 has clearly created significant pressures on local authorities since the end of March.
"We’ll be considering the impact the pandemic has had on their resources and on delivering their statutory responsibilities in relation to food at the FSA Board’s business committee meeting on December 8.”
Councillor Peter Moss, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “I am proud to say that the vast majority of Preston food businesses operate to high standards of food hygiene practice. We have very high levels of compliance with food hygiene law and many businesses who are working hard to move from good practice through to excellent practice.
"I really appreciate that 2020 has been incredibly difficult for our hospitality industry and the Council’s Environmental Health Inspectors have worked very closely with Preston businesses to advise and support them. This has included a significant amount of work around the various restrictions and ways that businesses have adapted to the situation.
"Credit should be given for both the effort and creativity undertaken by many of our local businesses to ensure they are operate in a COVID-safe way to protect customers and employees.”
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