Food Hygiene Ratings – Avoid My Unpleasant Experience

A few years ago I went on a weekend break in Bournemouth.  It was an enjoyable visit with beautiful weather but, sadly, I brought back something much less pleasant than a stick of rock.

On the Monday morning after my visit I went into work as usual but developed a splitting headache, which would not shift with painkillers.  Part way through the afternoon I felt so bad that I returned home.  The following morning I was very unwell with severe vomiting and diarrhoea.  This persisted throughout the next 3 days and by Thursday evening I was unable to keep down even a glass of water.

On the Friday morning I did start to feel a little better and recovered during the following few days, although it took more than another week before I could travel any distance without worrying about where the nearest loo was!

I made the mistake of not getting checked out by a doctor at the time but there is a good chance that I had picked up campylobacter.  Like salmonella and e-coli, these bacteria cause food poisoning.  According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) it is thought to be responsible for 280,000 cases of food poisoning and over 100 deaths in the UK each year.   In some cases it can lead to long-term consequences such as partial paralysis or arthritis.

My suspicion is that the breakfasts at the small hotel I stayed in were reheated and that this was the most probable source of infection.  This is based on how quickly the breakfasts appeared after ordering and the fact that all other food I consumed that weekend was very low risk.

In order to improve standards of food offered by restaurants, cafés and hotels, the FSA operates a hygiene rating scheme in cooperation with local councils.   This scheme rates each outlet with a number from 0 (Urgent Improvement Necessary) to 5 (Very Good).  More detail is available on the FSA website.

Businesses do not have to display their rating but anyone who has a 4 or 5 rating will normally have it out on display.  If an eatery does not have it on display, this may be because the rating is one they are not proud of.  After my unpleasant experience I will not eat food from an establishment unless it has a 4 or 5 rating.  You may want to consider doing the same, as I would not wish my experience on anyone.

If you are going somewhere new, you can check their food hygiene rating online before you go.  I did this last year when our walking group organised a Christmas meal.  We changed the venue after I pointed out that it had a food hygiene rating of 1 (Major Improvement Necessary).