I have had food poisoning several times in the UK during the last 4 years: before that I was only sick seriously in Tunisia. I lived in many countries (Ivory Coast, Argentina, Russia, Japan, France etc) and visited many others (USA, Canada, Australia, all Europe) with no problem but funnily it is in London that I got the most sick, and most often.
Three years ago I got seriously sick after eating in a noodles place near Tooting Bec tube station. I think I could have died if I weren’t in my thirties and in a good health: for about a week I had nausea and vomited a lot. In 7 days I managed to lose 6 kg but I was not in need of such a diet I wanted to complain and noticed how hard it is in the UK to complain about a restaurant. Things are not centralised… No direct phone line to report the troubles. You have to check with every local authority (as they are responsible for inspecting food businesses to ensure that they meet the legal requirements on food hygiene) for knowing how to report the complaint. It is already complicate enough for a resident to find out about it so I doubt many tourists managed to report properly their disappointement with some restaurants (or hotels, but that’s another topic).
It looks that finally they are going towards a national scheme via the ‘scores on the doors’ schemes but in the meantime we have to go through the local authorities.
For England, you have to go to http://www.food.gov.uk/safereating/hyg/scoresonthedoors/scoresengland
0 star means “Very poor: A general failure to comply with legal requirements. Little or no appreciation of food safety. Major effort required.”
1 star means “Poor: Poor level of compliance with food safety legislation – much more effort required.”
2 stars means “Broadly compliant: Broadly compliant with food safety legislation. More effort required to meet all legal requirements.”
3 stars means “Good: Good level of legal compliance. Some more effort might be required.”
4 stars means “Very good: Good food safety management. High standard of compliance with food safety legislation.”
5 stars means “Excellent: Very high standards of food safety management. Fully compliant with food safety legislation.”
Some restaurants display the scores on their door, but it is only when they have a good rating. I think it should be mandatory for them to display their score whatever it is.
Do not think only top restaurants get the 5 stars! Very often it is the McDonalds etc that get them because they are more serious about the bad reputation they could get if people were becoming sick after eating at their place. You can see Michelin star restaurants with only a couple of stars or even less. Hygiene is not related to money.
Also, the score can change so be sure the rating is relatively recent
Here is a sample of the scores on the doors system:
4 stars at Pizzeria Rustica in Richmond. Not bad at all!
According to Eurostat data, the UK has some of the highest rates of salmonella or e-coli in the EU, so it makes a lot of sense to check restaurant hygiene ratings along with reviews on their food.
On a more entertaining note, there was a great BBC TV show called “Rogue restaurants” showing unhygienic restaurants. I remember an “authentic” Indian restaurant where they were serving curry from a jar (Patak’s product). It was scary to watch it and you could only hope that restaurants you had been eating in were not in their show….
Some links in case you do not feel too well after eating out: