Dead mice in the fridge, rat droppings near your microwave and no lobster in your lobster curry. Do you know what’s in your takeaway?
Manchester has some of the best and most exotic takeaways in the country — whether it’s spicy Moroccan merguez, Cantonese char siu, a plate of Persian polo or some good old fashioned fish and chips, you’re bound to find whatever it is you’re in the mood for.
But an investigation by MM has lifted the lid on the questionable hygiene practices lurking in the kitchens of some of the county’s favourite fast-food haunts.
Of the 2,672 takeaways in Greater Manchester, 692 were deemed as ‘needing improvement’ by the government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) — over a quarter of the total.
An FOI request by MM uncovered dirty kitchens, mouse and rat infestations, staff that don’t wash their hands after using the loo, flies in food, and cockroaches and slugs lurking around the premises.
The worst ratings are found in Trafford, where nearly half of all outlets do not meet national standards.
Trafford Council's head of public protection Iain Veitch said: “Trafford Council believes the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is a very important initiative.
"It promotes better hygiene standards in food businesses by recognising those businesses that meet high standards and with easily accessible, consistent information available, it also helps consumers make informed choices when eating out or shopping for food.”
A dead mouse ‘that had been there for some time’ was found at the back of a fridge-freezer in the oven area, as well as mouse droppings near the microwave and elsewhere were discovered at Sicily Pizza, Ormskirk Road, Wigan.
Manager Sam Shapan said: “Since the visit we have had no problems. They asked me to get a contract with a pest controller and I did that straight away.”
Evidence of slugs or snails was found on the cellar stairs at Kara Chippery, Stamford Street, Old Trafford, and there was cockroach activity in the back room where uncovered tomatoes, peppers and cabbages were being stored. The chef had also failed his hygiene training.
The manager said they have since sorted out the problems and there are no longer any cockroaches.
And it’s not just hygiene which is a cause for concern.
Sale takeaway Recipe, Marsland Road, was warned in its inspection report: “Lobster curry must contain lobster. You are not allowed to use other meat.”
The manager was unavailable for comment.
FSA ‘scores on the doors’ ratings are given out after inspections to any premise that serves food.
The ratings range from 0, which are given to places where urgent improvement is necessary, to a top rating of 5, where hygiene is seen as very good.
Some businesses use their high ratings as an advertisement and environment bosses think it encourages others to improve their own hygiene practices.
In Bury, which had the lowest number of takeaways requiring improvement, five-rated Armstrongs’ Fish and Chip Shop on Bury Old Road, Prestwich, proudly wave their rating in the window.
Manager Sandra Chapman, 48, says she thinks it should be compulsory for takeaways to have their ratings displayed.
“They should be where people can see them in the window,” she says. “People should know what they are walking in to.”
Wigan had one of the lowest rates of takeaways needing improvement at 17.1%.
Julie Searing, Wigan Council's business compliance service manager, said: "It's about putting the customer in charge. If you're planning where to eat out, you can check first. And if you're online on your phone, you can even type in the street you're on as you're out and about."
It is currently voluntary for organisations to display their scores on the doors ratings, although England may follow in Wales’ footsteps after it decided last month to make mandatory for food businesses to display their ratings.