The people who protect your plate in Darlington
As part of National Food Safety Week – 4-10 June – Darlington Borough Council is working with the Food Standards Agency to shine a light on food safety and the team working behind the scenes to make sure the food we buy and eat is safe.
In the year 2017/18 the environmental health team visited 400 food businesses across Darlington to carry out inspections and ensure hygiene standards are up to scratch.
More than 95% of the businesses inspected received a food hygiene rating of 3 (generally satisfactory) or above under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
The council’s team of three environmental health inspectors visit any business that supplies or serves food direct to consumers, from restaurants, pubs and takeaways to schools, supermarkets and hospitals. They also visit food producers such as factories and dairies.
There are 1,000 food premises in Darlington, with the frequency of an inspection dictated by the potential risk to the consumer.
Low risk establishments such as bars and pubs that serve only drinks and snacks are visited every three years, while places that are potentially more high risk, such as hospitals and food production premises, are visited every six months.
Environmental health officer Brian Whelan said: “Just because a particular premises is inspected more regularly doesn’t mean it’s performing badly – the opposite is usually true.
“A major manufacturer that makes thousands of meals is likely to be hygienic but would receive more visits due to its risk factor.
“Any venue that has received a poor rating will also be inspected more regularly to make sure it brings itself up to standard.”
A standard food hygiene inspection takes roughly an hour, depending on the size of the venue.
Officers look at the physical state of the building, including its cleanliness and structural safety and the management of the business, which includes making sure staff are trained and monitored when handling food.
An officer’s confidence in the overall running of the business is also taken into account when awarding the food hygiene rating.
Councillor Chris McEwan, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “We have a dedicated team working hard to ensure people in Darlington can eat out and enjoy their meals with peace of mind.
“A lot of the work that the team does is behind the scenes, but they are vital to ensuring people are kept safe and can make informed decision about where to eat.”