A York bar and restaurant has made an official complaint after being struck with what its owners say is a ‘grossly unfair’ food hygiene rating.
Karoo Bar & Kitchen on George Hudson Street was visited by City of York Council environmental health inspectors at the end of March.
The rating, published a few days ago, shocked the owners.
The report said there was:
- Improvement necessary in food hygiene and safety
- Improvement necessary in structural compliance
- Major improvement necessary in confidence in management.
But co-owner Nathan Dutton-Smith said he felt an injustice had been done.
Both he and his co-owner Zach “have upheld the highest standards of food hygiene” since the South African-inspired venue opened in February 2020.
“We are currently at a formal complaint process with City of York Council who we feel have unfairly assessed us,” Nathan told YorkMix.
He said the environmental health officer (EHO) visited at about 11am when the bar was closed and being cleaned.
“The EHO was informed that we were closed and undertaking our cleaning duties but refused to attend and inspect on a more convenient day.
“The EHO therefore undertook the assessment to which they had found some issues, which were transient in nature and would not normally have been once the cleaning had been completed.
“In our opinion the decision to continue the inspection under these circumstances was grossly unfair and unreasonable on the EHO to do so.”
He said the council officer was told that the paperwork relating to monitoring and recording their cleaning and food hygiene regime was stored off site as they had no office in the bar.
“As a result of these not being onsite, we were marked down because they were not available for inspection,” Nathan said.
“Once again a grossly unfair way to undertake a fair assessment of our operation.”
He added: “When the EHO visited us the following week, we had met all her concerns.
“However they would not entertain a re-assessment without us paying £300 to the council for a formal re-assessment to take place.
“This leaves me wondering if this behaviour is normal practice and is this a way for CYC to generate additional income from businesses?
“Our request for appeal was not upheld, despite no further visits from CYC or further communication with them, once again how can an appeal be fairly actioned without further checks from City of York Council?”
What the council says
Anthony Dean, acting public protection manager (investigations and compliance) at City of York Council, said:
“When food inspectors visit and find the door open with people being served, it is deemed open and eligible for inspection. That was the situation on this occasion.
“Inspectors apply national standards when they consider the level, condition and nature of cleaning issues. Issues such as build up of mould, indicate, and will be identified as, longer term problems.
“As well as cleaning standards and concerns, inspections take account of food handling practices, operational standards, and essential paperwork. These all contribute to the score.
“A score of up to five is available, and the public can be assured that a score of one is never given needlessly or lightly.
“Following inspection all businesses get information on how to appeal. If the appeal is unsuccessful, as in this case, they may post a ‘right to reply’ online, along with their score, and also apply for a re-score visit.
“We offer pre-hygiene inspection services for businesses who want to improve their score. These are entirely voluntary and most businesses who use this service inform us it is helpful. Any business wishing to use this service can contact us at [email protected]’.
“We want businesses to thrive with the highest possible scores, but we have to score premises as we find them; to preserve the scheme’s integrity, keep customers as safe and informed as possible, and help businesses avoid any risks.
“We are delighted that the overwhelming majority of the city’s food businesses have the maximum score and that York is great place to go out and eat.”