NINE businesses have been named and shamed as among the worst in Blackpool when it comes to hygiene standards.
Customers are now be able to find out for the first time when food inspectors reveal the best and worst of Blackpool dining experiences.
Around 620 premises have been inspected so far and given ratings from zero to five – with zero meaning “urgent improvement necessary” and five meaning “very good.”
The details will be published online by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as part of the National Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme.
Local authorities are being encouraged to give consumers more knowledge about food standards at businesses ranging from takeaways, restaurants, pubs and cafes to hospitals, care homes and nurseries.
Carolyn Bland, (right), food control manager at Blackpool Council, said: “The main reason behind the scheme is to empower the consumer and give customers a more informed choice about where they go to eat and buy their food.
“We also hope it will encourage businesses to improve their standards and we are already seeing that.
“Businesses have the right to appeal within 14 days if they don’t think the rating is right, and they can request a re-visit to take place three to six months after the original inspection.”
The scheme also aims to reduce the number of food poisoning cases.
Coun Fred Jackson, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Food poisoning affects health, resulting in people having time off work, and impacting on the local economy.
“The ratings scheme will help drive up food hygiene standards across Blackpool, giving people more confidence when eating out.”
The ratings are reached after inspectors give premises three scores covering hygiene and handling practices, structure and cleaning, and confidence in management systems.
Dirty floors, out of date refrigeration, poor storage of food and not dating food correctly are among the failings which can bring down a rating.
Ms Bland added: “If there is an imminent risk to public health, there is enforcement action we can take to close premises down. But some have a poor rating because they have been told again and again to improve and haven’t done so.
“In the past we have prosecuted where there was a beetle found in someone’s food, and we have had hotels where the kitchen has been over-run by cockroaches.”
Catriona Stewart, head of food hygiene ratings at the FSA, said: “Around one million people suffer from food poisoning every year, and our aim in introducing the scheme is to reduce this number.
“The ratings will give consumers a glimpse of what is going on in the kitchen when they eat out, or behind the scenes at the places they shop.”
Blackpool has almost 3,500 food premises in total including 1,400 hotels and guesthouses so more ratings will be added to the list.
Lancashire County Council’s ratings were revealed in June.
Nine businesses have been named and shamed as among the worst in Blackpool when it comes to hygiene standards.
They have been rated with a zero which means “urgent improvement” is necessary.
No details have been released as to why the premises have failed so badly, but some bosses have already acted on the council’s sharp reminder they are not up to standard.
Matthew Brockhurst, who runs the fish and chip shop at 289 Lytham Road, has spent £2,500 upgrading his premises.
He said: “I only took over here 15 weeks ago and I’m trying to redress six years of neglect.
“I’ve put in new pipework, boiler and new fridges and freezer.”
Stuart Kelly, only took over the Seafood and Steak Restaurant in Bond Street in January and has invested £10,000.
He said: “It’s a different place to what it was. The food, the place, the hygiene – it’s spot-on. The kitchen has been refurbished, we’ve turned it back around.”
Mourad Benzarti, manager of Number 14 takeaway in central Blackpool, says his premises have also improved.
He said: “Everything they told me to do I have. I have painted everywhere and got gas and electric certificates.
“The freezer and tables are clean. I only sell nice, fresh food because I want people to come back.”
La Piazza in Blackpool town centre was prosecuted in 2009 for eight food hygiene breaches after a customer discovered a large black beetle under the cheese on her garlic bread.
Owner Domenico Dell’Armi claims hygiene has improved but admitted it was “very busy” when inspectors came in “so of course there was grease on the floor.”
La Piazza is a separate business from La Piazza II on Red Bank Road, Bispham, which received a three rating.
Paul Cook, who runs the Cottage Bakery in Hawes Side Road, also said his premises were spotless.
He said: “I was shocked to get a zero because my kitchen is absolutely spotless but they said the paperwork wasn’t right.”
John Gardner, owner of Cricketland Nursery at Blackpool Cricket Club, is already expecting to receive a significantly higher rating after being re-inspected.
He said: “It was a combination of very small issues that led to our zero rating but every single issue was corrected the following day and we have asked for a re-rating.
“They have already visited us and given us a clean bill of health.”
No-one was available to officially comment at Ho Ho’s in Waterloo Road, but a member of staff said “everything had changed” and someone from the council had been to check everything again.
No-one was available from the Bombay Restaurant on Dickson Road, while it is believed Rutland Meats of Coronation Street has moved out of its premises.
On the upside, more than three quarters of premises inspected received a rating of three or higher, with more than a quarter given the top rating of five.
Steve Hoddy achieved a clean sweep with fives for his premises at Bispham Kitchen, Top Chippy and Cafe Royale on Red Bank Road to add to the fives he received from Lancashire County Council for his four premises in Cleveleys.
He said: “The public has the right to know. With this system it is much more transparent and hopefully it will keep the cowboy operators off the street. I think as awareness builds, people will check the ratings where they want to eat.”
Mike Gibson, general manager of Toast on Corporation Street, said: “I think any kind of barometer like this is a good idea because it makes people self regulate and think about their responsibilities.
“We’re extremely proud of the quality and cleanliness of the venue and work hard to ensure high standards are maintained.”