Frustrated staff at Horsham’s eateries were shocked to learn their restaurants have been ranked incorrectly in terms of food hygiene standards this week.
Horsham District Council (HDC) is looking into the ‘damaging’ errors as ‘a matter of urgency’ after ratings on the Food Standards Agency web-site (www.food.gov.uk/ratings) show Strada and The Comodor both in need of hygiene improvements despite receiving good scores in their latest inspections.
The news comes as the local authority, whose responsibility it is to maintain and update the website, celebrate the 79 per cent of Horsham district businesses which have been rated as either good or very good (scoring 4 or 5) since ‘Scores on the Doors’ was launched 18 months ago.
The national scheme has been developed by the Food Standards Agency in partner-ship with local authorities throughout the UK.
However, the County Times can reveal that potential customers curious to find out the level of hygiene in Horsham restaurants have been viewing wrong information.
Furthermore, the website link to the incorrect information was sent to the County Times this week for the purposes of publication by HDC which has subsequently blamed the errors on ‘IT issues’.
Adele Perseh, owner of The Comodor in Black Horse Way, branded the revelation ‘damaging’. His restaurant was rated 1 - ‘major improvement necessary’ - during an inspection in February last year. Despite being awarded a 4 - ‘good’ - after a subsequent visit in March 2012, this has not been updated online, viewable to a worldwide audience.
“I’m really surprised, this is not good at all, it’s annoying and they should change it,” the frustrated owner said yesterday, adding: “I’m going to call them [HDC] right now.
“We’re having a lot of problems, we’re still in a recession so income is coming down each year. More and more businesses are closing down and Horsham’s becoming an eating place and if people see a score of one it’s going to have a bad effect.”
He explained that the restaurant was given a rating of 1 last year because ‘we couldn’t find the food hygiene book and the inspector wasn’t happy about it’.
Since then the mark has been upgraded. He added: “We ensure our customers are always having good food in a clean environment.”
East Street’s Strada was graded 2 in March this year, but another visit from the inspector resulted in a 5 being awarded - this has not been updated online either.
The venue, which has enjoyed a flush of 5s in previous ratings, was handed the 2 because kitchen walls needed cleaning and the storage room needed repainting, said an inspector’s report.
But general manager Isabelle Beausseron criticised the method of inspection, branding it ‘unfair’ and ‘just one person’s opinion’. “It was horrible,” she said, speaking of receiving the score of 2. “I felt so low, because I care about my job so much, I love it.
“I love everything about it and we do the best we can.
“We serve 1,400 people a week. If you come in before we serve hundreds of people of course it’s going to be more clean compared to afterwards.
“It’s a working space - this is real life, this is fire, this is oil - there is flour on the floor because we make pizza.
“If you come into a mechanic’s garage, at the end of the day it’s not going to be as clean be-cause he had 30 cars in there.”
She continued: “We have always had fantastic scores. We hit a bump in the road that we contested and it was amended.
“I can only be happy that they admitted that their first inspection wasn’t accurate.
“At the end of the day it’s one person’s opinion. I want someone to come in and sit down and discuss with me, not inspect me.”
A spokesman for Strada said: “Strada takes health and hygiene issues extremely seriously and works closely with local authorities to address any issues.”
The council is now looking into the online errors which have surprised and upset staff at Horsham businesses.
A spokesperson for HDC said: “The council has uploaded all up-to-date information about every score onto the Food Standards Agency website in good time, as it is required and keen to do, however there appears to be an IT issue with some of the latest information appearing online.
“We are looking into this as a matter of urgency. We can confirm that all those businesses participating in the scheme which have had their scores amended have received their updated paper certificates and public information stickers.”