One in five businesses serving or preparing food in East Cambridgeshire is not meeting strict food hygiene standards, a new investigation has revealed.

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Consumer watchdog Which? found that more than 20 per cent of medium and high risk businesses in the district had failed to comply with food safety standards when inspected by the council.

Which? looked at 395 councils in the UK and, using Food Standards Agency data, ranked how they were performing on food safety enforcement.

Of the 395 councils assessed, East Cambridgeshire was ranked in 257th position, with a score of -0.2. The average score was 0.

The top council in the UK was Cherwell, in Oxfordshire, which scored 1.4.

According to Which, there are 829 establishments in East Cambridgeshire, with 94.6 per cent of them having been visited and rated by health officials – leaving some five per cent – one in 20 – which had not.

The figures also showed that 78.7 per cent of premises in East Cambs were “broadly compliant” with hygiene standards but that left more than 20 per cent which were not.

According to the district council, there are four establishments in East Cambridgeshire with the lowest possible rating for food hygiene.

Inspectors also found a further 29 restaurants in East Cambs with only one star out of five - meaning major improvement was necessary,

When compared to other East of England councils, East Cambs is ranked 30th out of 46, though it is above both Huntingdonshire and South Cambridgeshire District Councils.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “No one wants another horsemeat fiasco, so it is very worrying that local authority food checks are in decline.”

East Cambs environmental health officer Liz Bailey: “Food businesses can have a low food hygiene rating for a number of reasons including poor cleanliness, hygiene, structure or management standards relating to food safety. After we have visited an establishment, we will always highlight the areas which need to be improved and work with the owners to suggest ways they can implement changes.

“Ultimately our task is to help the public know how well a business serves, prepares and sells food - the hygiene rating is one very clear way of doing this. We are in the process of organising one to one coaching for 0 and 1 rated takeaways to improve hygiene standards.”

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