Why it's more than just filthy takeaways riddled with rats for Doncaster Council's food hygiene team

It’s not all about bursting into filthy takeaways littered with dead rats for Doncaster Council’s food hygiene team – that’s just a small part of one of the more unusual jobs out of Civic Office.

By George Torr
Wednesday, 14 August, 2019, 16:25
Filthy fryers of a Chinese takeaway in Doncaster where enforcement action was taken

From the usual inspections of Indian takeaways and kebab haunts comes something a little more exotic.

Nick Wellington and his team are regulars at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and have recently been inspecting Kenyan coffee beans.

They are one of the last lines of defence for imported food coming in from outside of the EU to make sure it’s fit enough for consumption before hitting supermarket shelves across the UK.

Nick Wellington, Doncaster Council’s Food, Animal Health and H&S Manager

Port health, food borne disease investigations, food sampling are all part of the job and no day is the same.

The nine food team officers are responsible for overseeing 3,500 food businesses across Doncaster and they’re in charge of handing out the much scrutinised hygiene ratings. Everyone wants the full five star mark.

A further two additional officers are responsible for the animal health, livestock feed and primary production at farms.

But as recently reported, some food outlets fall so short of the required standards, enforcement action takes place.

Cargo being unloaded off a plane from Nairobi at Doncaster Sheffield Airport carrying fresh produce for UK supermarkets.

Nick was involved at bringing action against four takeaways in recent months. One pizza and kebab shop in Mexborough was so bad inspectors found vermin activity inside the premises.

The risk rating schemes for food premises are detailed by the Food Standards Agency.

One refers to the hygiene of the premises and the other relates to food standards, which includes labelling and composition.

Both schemes, apply a numerical score to the premises based on a number of factors including the quality of the management and size of the business.

Cargo being unloaded off a plane from Nairobi at Doncaster Sheffield Airport carrying fresh produce for UK supermarkets.

These collectively give an indication of the risk to the public of poor hygiene and standards. The higher the risk presented, the more frequently the service will carry out an inspection on that business.

Last year, the council undertook 1,253 food hygiene inspections and 470 food standards inspections.

The food team are also responsible for the inspection of certain vegetable items coming through Doncaster Sheffield Airport. What the council sample and how often is governed by EU legislation.

At the moment, their main focus is on beans imported from Kenya looking for pesticide residues in samples they take.

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The back doorway of a Chinese takeaway in Doncaster where enforcement action was taken

Another big part of the job is food sampling. Over 250 samples were looked at for microbiological contamination and 52 samples taken for composition and labelling issues.

Samples are done in conjunction with a number of different agencies and are sent to a specialist laboratory in York.

If you’re eating out and fall ill, a complaint about a restaurants food will also be handled by the team.

It is estimated each year in Doncaster there will be around 100 complaints about food, 100 complaints about food premises and a further 25 about food standards issues.

Many businesses know the positive look it gives a business when customers see a top hygiene rating.

One of these is Tony Demi, owner of Frenchgate Cafe in the town centre.

Tony Demi outside his shop with his granddaughter Sidelya

He said: “A five star rating helps me to improve my business and bring in new customers. They are more confident about food hygiene when they see five stars.

“We opened in 2004 and have always had a five star food hygiene rating.

“Business is going well and we are about to have a big refurbishment over the summer. The new look Frenchgate Cafe will be great.”

Nick Wellington, Doncaster Council’s Food, Animal Health and Health & Safety manager, said: “The food team has a very important job to do. We undertake a range of work associated with the 3,500 or so food businesses in the borough.

“This includes enforcing food hygiene and food standards legislation, ensuring health and safety within food businesses complies with the law and preventing illegal sales of tobacco and alcohol.

“We are responsible for ensuring requirements around labelling of allergens are met by food businesses and that the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme scores are accurate and up to date. If there is any risk to public health we step in and act.

“As well as carrying out enforcement, we offer advice and guidance to new and established businesses and are conscious of the need to encourage growth within Doncaster’s business community.

“On top of the routine visits to retail, catering and manufacturing businesses, we also have responsibilities for inspecting certain vegetable foods imported through Doncaster Sheffield Airport to ensure they are fit for eating before they are distributed to the rest of the country.

“The public can be reassured that we have a zero tolerance approach when we find any food related problems.”