for the month of September, 2017
Where Not to Eat in London
Most tourist guides offer advice on where to eat. This map of London shows you where not to.
The map shows Central London postcodes, colour-coded for average food hygiene ratings. A band of worst-rated areas (in red) traverses the city from NW10 in the west to E6 in the east. There is a smaller cluster of four 'red' postcodes in south London (SE5, SE15, SE17 and SW9), plus two more isolates in the south, and one in the north.
'Red' areas generally are embedded in postcodes coloured dark and light orange, each for a slightly better food standards category. The best food safety postcodes (dark green) also tend to cluster, and are also generally flanked by the adjacent category (light green). Only very rarely do the best and worst food categories touch (as happens in the case of dark-green E20, bordering dark-red E9 and E15).
The Food Safety Map of London Postcodes is the work of data scientist Mark Dunne, who writes on his website about the genesis of the project: “While recovering from a dodgy curry in London, I decided I wanted to look deeper into food standards across the city”.
Dunne scraped data published online by the British government's Food Standards Agency, obtaining food ratings (one to five stars) for 515,748 locations across the entire UK, as well as their name, longitude and latitude, and postcode.
Cleaning up the data, Dunne encountered some bizarre data fails. Most of the locations in Northumberland – about 60,000 – had no ratings attached. And the manually entered data contained over 100 different spellings of McDonald's.
A more reassuring result: most of the 431,758 locations throughout the UK for which good data was available, had a five-star rating. These included many of the restaurant chains. The aforementioned Mickey D's, but also Burger King and Subway all had perfect 5 out of 5 ratings. Notable exception: KFC, “falling quite a bit below the national average. In fact, KFC was among the lowest of even its cheaper fried chicken competitors”.
“The next stat really surprised me”, writes Dunne “I would have thought that food standards in the capital would have been held to a higher standard than elsewhere in the country, but the opposite is true”.
In fact, out of 16 major cities in the UK, Glasgow has by far the best average food hygiene rating (>4.8), while London (+/- 4.1) is well below the national average (>4.4) and battling Leicester for last place.
His statistically grounded advice on eating out in London: “Next to the river, you're pretty safe. But enter the band to the north, or that localised pocket to the south, and you're straying into unknown territory”.
The map also indicates the postcode with the absolute worst average rating: E13, in the east of London. If you have a sensitive stomach and are wondering which area to avoid: here is a map of E13.
Hygiene watchdogs swoop on supermarket... to stop children from standing in the trolleys
I have often discussed this topice in my food hygiene courses. Although the prospect of foodborne illness is remote it is something for all retailers to consider.
How often do they get their trolley fleet washed? Every 6 months? 3months?
- A woman made a complaint to Sainsbury's and Ashford Borough Council after seeing youngsters as old as nine standing in trolleys at a branch in Ashford, Kent
- She claimed dog faeces would transfer to the trolleys from the children's shoes
- Ashford Borough Council has confirmed that an environmental health officer visited the supermarket on Monday last week to discuss the shopper's concernsFood hygiene inspectors attended a supermarket after a complaint was made about children standing in trolleys.
One woman was so enraged after seeing youngsters as old as nine standing in the carts, she fired off a series of complaints.
The shopper, who visited a Sainsbury's shop in Ashford, Kent, sent an email to the supermarket chain's chief executive, Mike Coupe.
One woman was so enraged after seeing youngsters as old as nine standing in the carts, she fired off a series of complains (stock photo)
She also wrote to Richard Judge at the Health and Safety Executive and Ashford Borough Council (ABC) leader Gerry Clarkson.
In the letter the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed dog faeces would be transferred from the outside to the trolleys by children's shoesShe wrote: 'Every other trolley is being pushed around by parents with children standing up or sitting in the groceries section.
'Think about this. These are kids who walk around outside in the same shoe they're standing in, inside the trolley.
Craig McEwan from the Sainsbury's executive office replied to the email and said notices are put on trolley handles about the correct use of trolleys (stock photo)
'Dog faeces, dirt, litter residue, all this is being carried into the trolley on their shoes.
'Even worse, we frequently see kids in the trolley picking their noses or shoving food in their mouths.
'Why are Sainsbury's allowing this to happen?'
Ashford Borough Council [ABC] has confirmed that an environmental health officer visited the supermarket on Monday last week to discuss the shopper's concerns.
An ABC spokesman said: 'The council and Sainsbury's would like to remind parents and guardians to use trolleys responsibly at any supermarket and to take note of the trolley safety signs which clearly indicate children are securely fastened in the seat provided.
'While the risks to food safety are low it is theoretically possible that contamination from children's shoes could spread onto the packaging and then onto kitchen or fridge surfaces.
'A more significant concern, however, is the risk of accident to a child as trolleys are not designed for children to stand up in the main basket.
'These issues are of course relevant to all supermarkets.'
Craig McEwan from the Sainsbury's executive office replied to the email and said notices are put on trolley handles about the correct use of trolleys.
Mr McEwan said: 'I fully appreciate your concerns about dirt from trolleys being transferred to customers' shopping.
'I can assure you that we have a cleaning programme in place for all our stores and equipment, and this includes our trolleys.'
Six common food safety myths busted
With so many opinions about food safety, what information should we trust and how do we know what's just a myth?
We all know that thawing meat and then refreezing is supposed to be a bad idea. But is it really bad for our health or just a common misconception?
Nutrition and exercise scientist Kathleen Alleaume revealed the top six food hygiene myths and explained what you can do to keep your family safe.
1. Don't refreeze meat that's been thawed
According to the CSIRO, you can in fact refreeze defrosted meat without harm, as long as it was defrosted in a fridge and not out in the open
Another tip is to make sure you aren't freezing anything that is still hot. If you don't wait for it to cool you risk creating a "steam" which is the perfect condition for bacteria to grow.
2. Bacteria can be washed away
You cannot remove bacteria from meat or produce by rinsing it off, in fact it actually increases the risk of hazardous bacteria.
Instead, Alleaume suggests cooking your meat and vegetables at above boiling point in order to make sure all bacteria is destroyed.
3. You can freeze anything
There is a common misconception that all food can be safely stored in your freezer, says Alleaume. While this is the case for most foods, some are just not suited to being chilled.
Some vegetables and sauces will disintegrate when placed in a freezer and things like coffee, milk and eggs are altered chemically when frozen, often destroying flavours.
4. Food never expires when frozen
Most people seem to think time itself is frozen when things are kept in the freezer, but that is simply not the case, says Alleaume.
Food deteriorates the longer it is kept in the freezer and, as a general rule, you shouldn't keep pre-made meals more than three months. Raw meat should be kept for no more than 12 months.
5. Meat is still edible unless it smells bad
Alleaume explains that allowing your nose to determine if you should eat something or not is a huge gamble when it comes to food safety.
Yes, expired food does attract a nasty aroma, but there's bacteria in food that can't be seen or smelt too. These bacteria still pose health risks, so if things are out of date the best place for them is in the bin.
6. Freezing food kills bacteria
This assumption is in fact false. Freezing food simply makes bacteria inactive rather than kills it.
This means that when the food is thawed, the bacteria will still be present. In order to ensure all bacteria are killed, it must be cooked above boiling point.
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