A DIRTY dozen of restaurants and eateries have been given the lowest possible mark for kitchen cleanliness during a recent inspection which also found almost 100 businesses in need of major improvement in their hygiene.
A team of council staff descended on restaurants, fast food joints, school kitchens and cafes across Hastings and St Leonards to rank local firms selling food on the quality of their kitchen.
And shockingly, 94 of the premises visited scored either zero or one out of a possible five.
Of those, 12 were slapped with a rating of zero and told the conditions needed to be urgently improved.
Among those named and shamed was popular George Street cafe Pomegranate, the Crown House on St Leonards seafront and Penbuckles cheese and wine store in the Old Town.
Slightly further afield, the well-known Wild Mushroom restaurant in Westfield slumped to a bottom of the pile rating, as did town centre takeaway Super Pizza on White Rock.
Hastings Borough Council has decided to adopt the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme to make it easier for locals to decided where is best - and safest - to eat in 1066 Country.
And, despite the headline-grabbing low scores, dozens of establishments managed to secure the top rating of five - including Hastings United Football Club, Azur, the town centre Wetherspoons and The Turret burger bar opposite the town hall.
Many of the town’s schools were also rated - with some faring considerably better than others.
Dudley Infants, Helenswood, Hollington Primary, Sussex Coast College and West St Leonards Primary all scored the maximum.
However, All Saints Junior School in Githa Road managed just two for the state of its kitchen and posh Buckswood in nearby Guestling scored just one.
A spokesman for the Food Standards Agency said the guidelines had been set up so customers could compare the cleanliness and hygiene of competing restaurants - but added that people should not necessarily be alarmed if they have eaten in anywhere scoring poorly.
“Staff from the local authority carry out the checks and if they believed there is an imminent risk posed to customers they have the power to act immediately.
“Anywhere that fell into that category would be outside the rankings.
“Hopefully businesses can use these findings as an incentive to improve things.
“Around one million people suffer from food poisoning every year, and our aim in introducing the scheme is to reduce this.
“The ratings will give consumers a glimpse of what is going on in the kitchen when they eat out, or behind the scenes at the places they shop, before they make their decision about which place they prefer to visit.”
A team from the Food Standards Agency will be in Priory Meadow on Monday to answer any questions on the scheme and hand out leaflets.
But Councillor Phil Scott, head of environmental health at the local authority, is already convinced of its merits. He told the Observer: “The public will be able to use the ratings when deciding which outlets to visit and we hope that food companies will recognise that displaying a good hygiene rating is good for business.
“When customers expect to see a rating, there is a real incentive for food businesses to seek to make improvements to their hygiene standards.”