20,000 Shops, Restaurants and Cafes Fail on Food Safety

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Byline: BO WILSON

MORE than 20,000 London restaurants, cafes and food shops were caught breaking Food Standards Agency (FSA) rules in one year, figures show today.

Council enforcement officers across the capital uncovered a litany of wrongdoings, including restaurant kitchens infested with rats, grime-encrusted equipment being used to prepare and serve meals and food on sale well past its sell-by date.

The figures were revealed by the FSA in response to a Parliamentary Question. Following the 20,002 "enforcement actions" carried out by inspection staff, some of the premises were closed down on the spot.

The owners of others were prosecuted and fined.

The borough with the highest number of enforcements was Westminster, which covers the West End. Council staff uncovered 1,975 breaches of FSA guidelines, which are designed to ensure public safety, between April 2004 and March last year.

Kensington & Chelsea discovered 1,677 breaches and Hammersmith & Fulham 1,087. Lambeth was the only borough to have taken no action, although it is not specified whether this is because of the high quality of food outlets in the borough or a lack of inspections.

Many of the enforcements were taken against takeaways but some high-profile restaurants also fell foul of inspectors.

Simpson's in the Strand was served a notice after inspectors found the restaurant was using unpasteurised eggs in its food. It was fined [pounds sterling]10,000.

Richard Harden, co-editor of Harden's London Restaurant guide, said: "Health inspection failures vary from the quite trivial to the truly revolting. …