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Sunderland's restaurants, takeaways and food producers named among cleanest in country

Picture by Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Picture by Nick Ansell/PA Wire
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Diners in Sunderland can be reassured they are eating at some of the cleanest establishments in the country, a new study has shown.

The city was ranked third in the top 10 of best-performing council areas in the UK when it came to food hygiene ratings, with Erewash in Derbyshire rated top and Basingstoke and Deane in Hampshire coming second.

At the other end of the spectrum, Birmingham, Hyndburn in Lancashire, and Camden in London have been named first, second and third worst respectively.

The tables were pulled together by consumer watchdog Which? Its team looked at data for 390 local authorities including information from the Local Authority Monitoring System (LAEMS), collected by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The consumer champion said it had big concerns at the levels of food hygiene "non-compliance" in some areas. In Birmingham, the worst-rated, 43% of its high and medium-risk food businesses did not meet food compliance standards.

Which? also believes Brexit could deliver another blow to standards. It states the Government, which is under pressure to safeguard current food standards, will need to step up checks on imports and potentially look to negotiate trade deals with countries with lower food standards.

The watchdog states there was one food hygiene enforcement officer per 403 food businesses amid a rising amount of complaints about hygiene and quality in 2016/17.

There has also been a 5.5% rise in the number of food premises yet to be rated compared with two years previously. This means that in 2016/17, 1,697 more businesses were running without a food hygiene rating compared to 2014/15, according to Which?

Alex Neill, of Which?, said: "When it comes to food, British consumers expect the very best standards for themselves and their families.

"But our enforcement regime is under huge strain, just as Brexit threatens to add to the responsibilities of struggling local authorities.

"Effective food enforcement must be a government priority, including robust checks on imports as well as co-operation with the EU and other countries on food risks".

Councillor Simon Blackburn, chairman of the Local Government Association's safer and stronger communities board, said: "Councils work extremely hard to maintain and improve food hygiene standards, even as resources reduce, by combining reports and through collaboration which allows councils to share intelligence and avoid duplication of effort.

"Ultimately it is the responsibility of food businesses to ensure the products they produce and premises they serve from comply fully with food safety law and pose no risk, but councils continue to do everything possible to maintain checks in this area despite severe budgetary pressures."

The top 10 ranked local authorities are:

1. Erewash

2. Basingstoke and Deane

3. Sunderland

4. North Dorset

5. South Kesteven

6. Brentwood

7. West Dorset

8. Staffordshire and Moorlands

9. Conwy

10. Orkney Islands

Lowest 10 ranked local authorities are:

1. Birmingham

2. Hyndburn

3. Camden

4. Croydon

5. Isles of Scilly

6. Falkirk

7. Glasgow

8. Edinburgh

9. Lewisham

10. Waltham Forest