Eating out used to be, and for many still is, a luxury. Maybe, you choose a place to eat because you have heard great things about the food or the atmosphere. Maybe you are looking to have a nice meal out on a budget
Whatever the reason, you want to have confidence that you will enjoy the experience and not be left with a bitter after taste. It’s an assumption we all make that when you go out for a meal, whether it’s a big sit down or snack, that the place will be clean and the staff know how to prepare the ingredients in a hygienic way. I bet your first thought is not “I really must avoid food poisoning”.
How do you know that when you step across the threshold of a local café or restaurant they are meeting the standards expected for serving good food, and not unsuspectingly exposing you to nasty bugs?
Some of those microbes are nasty little blighters and can leave you in a bad way. The worst of them will kill, while for most of us it’s probably the D and Vs if we are unlucky. I will let your imagination fill in the details.
To avoid a dodgy tummy, every place that sells food for us to consume is required to comply with certain hygiene standards and these are reflected in a score issued by a trained, experienced food hygiene professional. These people know their food bugs and beasties, where they can be found if the conditions allow and what they can do to the unsuspecting consumer.
The best businesses will score Five out of Five while the worst will be graded Zero. The good news is that in our area we generally have really good places to eat. Overall, 97 out of every 100 eateries are complying with national food hygiene standards while over eight out of ten achieve the top grade. You will know whether a business is setting the standard by looking out for the green Food Hygiene Rating sticker in the shop window. If they are are not displaying, ask them why.
And what if you have a specific food requirement, whether it’s one that could affect your health or is down to personal choice? We are really lucky that caterers in West Suffolk are being acknowledged for designing their menus to cut salt and sugar, provide vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives or looking to cook in ways that cut out unhealthy fats. Those that do this are able to receive recognition through the Suffolk Eat Out Eat Well award.
The award rewards caterers who make it easier for their customers to make healthy choices. The best are using healthier catering practices, such as grilling instead of frying, increasing fruit, vegetables, and starchy carbohydrates, decreasing levels of fat, sugar and salt in food, and providing healthy options for children.
You can find an award winner on the Eat Out Eat Well website or look for the logo when you are booking.
For more on healthy eating, visit www.eatouteatwell.org
To find out the hygiene rating of café or restaurant, visit http://ratings.food.gov.uk/enhanced-search/
-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for West Suffolk councils