Scandal of school kitchen hygiene

Mice, ants and mouldy walls in school kitchens

I had an article in last weekend’s Sunday Times after I obtained hundreds of reports from school canteen hygiene inspections from local authorities around the council.

Hundreds of schools were given poor hygiene scores of 2 (“improvement required”) or less; two schools (Sennybridge County Primary School in Powys, and Erith School in Kent) scored the bottom score of 0 (“urgent improvement required”).

Many of the reports made for uncomfortable reading: black mould on walls, broken windows, raw meat stored alongside cooked food, mice infestations, ant infestations, and poor personal hygiene among staff all featured in the reports.

Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon chain of restaurants and the government’s new school food tsar, and Janette Wallis of the Good Schools Guide were kind enough to comment on my findings.

The Sunday Times data team created an interactive map for the online version of the story, so look for poor-scoring school canteens near you here. If you’d like to have a look at a report from your local school, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Full text of the article is also available after the fold.

Mice, ants and mouldy walls found in school kitchens

Cal Flyn
Published in The Sunday Times: 6 October 2013

HUNDREDS of school kitchens across the country are failing to meet basic standards of cleanliness, an investigation by the Sunday Times has found.

Inspection reports from the last 18 months, released under freedom of information laws, reveal details of mice and ant infestations, mouldy walls, equipment caked with food and poor personal hygiene.

In total, 288 schools, including 165 primaries, were given a hygiene score of two out of five or less following their most recent inspection by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Of these, 80 were given a score of one, and two received a zero rating.

A score of two means “improvement required”, one denotes “major improvement required” and zero means “urgent improvement required”. The two schools with the lowest score were Sennybridge County Primary School in Powys, and Erith School in Kent.

At Sennybridge, inspectors found the kitchen and dining room in a poor state of repair with “large flakes of paint” falling from the ceiling, plasterboard coming away from the wall and a broken window fixed with tape.

Kathryn Price, the school’s head teacher, said: “The health and safety of the pupils is paramount and the catering and building issues are now being resolved by Powys county council.”

At Erith, mice were seen in the kitchen, with inspectors noting that an infestation “has been ongoing for a considerable period of time”.

They detailed dirty fixtures and fittings, and said that food hygiene awareness among catering staff was “inadequate”.

Brian Lloyd, Erith’s head teacher, said there had since been an “intense deep clean” and review of pest control.

Trinity School in Belvedere, Kent, was given a rating of two after inspectors found bags of raw meat that had been left to defrost above bread rolls. They noted that “most areas of the gravity meat slicer were encrusted with old food debris, both dried and non-dried, leading to a high risk of contamination”. The caterers have since been sacked.

At Cwmfelinfach Primary School in Caerphilly, the ceiling in the kitchen “was bowing and had black mould growth”and there was a hole in a wall in the children’s seating area.

The school, which was given a two rating, said improvements had been made and a recent visit by the FSA had found no problems.

Poor hygiene was not confined to state schools. Hurtwood House, a £12,250-a-term sixth-form college in Surrey, and the Brit School, a performing arts school in Croydon, south London, were given a score of one.

One of the boys’ houses at Eton, Penn House, was ordered to “thoroughly clean” its kitchen floors. It was awarded a food hygiene rating of three, which denotes “generally satisfactory”.

Janette Wallis, senior editor at the Good Schools Guide, said: “These findings are disappointing. Parents are rarely in a position to see what goes on behind closed doors in the preparation of their children’s food, so inspections of this kind are crucially important.”

Last month Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, announced that all pupils under the age of eight would receive free school dinners from next September.

Henry Dimbleby, author of the government’s recent School Food Plan and a supporter of The Sunday Times Better School Meals campaign, pointed out that the vast majority of Britain’s estimated 25,000 school canteens had good hygiene standards.

“With the roll-out of free meals for five to seven-year-olds, it is really important that this new money is . . . spent creating great food that children will like in a clean and hygienic environment,” he said.

“Investment will be required to improve standards in some kitchens and dining rooms, but . . . most schools take food hygiene very seriously and do a great job.”

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