VEGA News Item

Kosher Food Establishments Have Something to Declare - 28/01/2008
Like many others they should display results and ratings of inspections.
Like many others they should display results and ratings of inspections.

1. “Half the kosher establishments visited by local authority inspectors are rated ‘very poor’ or ‘poor’ in their reports” states the Jewish Chronicle (28th Dec 2007), describing “restaurants that fail the food safety test”. The investigation covered 59 restaurants, cafes, delis, and bakeries inspected by local authorities over the last 2 years. Thirty were rated “very poor” or “poor”, the lowest two of six categories: they earned only one star or none. Two received full five stars; they were Sharon’s Bakery in Barkingside, Essex, and Brackmans Coffee Shop in Manchester. Two – Chopstix Noodle Bar in Golders Green and Croft Court Hotel, also in Golders Green – received a four-stars rating. Sharon’s Bakery in Tottenham, as well as Blooms and several other establishments in Golders Green, managed 3 stars; others in Hendon, Edgware, and Golders Green were awarded 2 stars. A number of others in similar locations, including Sharons Bakery in Stamford Hill, received one star each. The same areas included 8 establishments with no stars.

2. The star ratings indicate these definitions of hygiene:
  • 5 Star: Excellent. Very high standards of food management

  • 4 Star: Very good. High standard of compliance with food safety legislation

  • 3 Star: Good, but some effort might be required

  • 2 Star: Broadly compliant, but more effort needed

  • 1 Star: Poor level of compliance with food safety legislation. Much more effort required.

  • No Star: Very poor. Little or no appreciation of safety. Major effort required

3. Although not strictly like-for-like comparisons, McDonald’s outlets and non-kosher chains such as Pizza Express consistently achieve ratings of at least 4 stars. Scoring is based on a national system devised by the Food Standards Agency, and London Inspection results are published on the yourlondon.gov.uk website. There are also kosher inclusions in information schemes being developed outside the capital. Inspections are carried out without warning. Premises are asked to display their ratings certificate, but there is no legal obligation yet.

4. Each rating is a sum of 3 components – food hygiene and safety procedures, structure and facilities; and confidence in management. “Structure and facilities” encompasses the condition of walls, floors, toilets, and wash basins, ventilation and cleanliness of structure. “Confidence in management” includes prior history of complaints, response to inspections and understanding of how to improve standards. Three years may elapse between inspections in London and there are always reservations of the “chef’s night off” type.

5. Jewish standards of hygiene and competence are regulated by shomers, whose duties cover slaughterhouses, factories and food outlets. “The majority of shomers are trained in the basics of food hygiene”, believes Mr David Steinhof of the Shephardi Kashrut Authority. Dayan Moshe Elzas sees “no reason to duplicate the inspections”. Licensees are not required to inform the Beth Din of inspection results.

6. Much improvement will be achieved if customers inspected an establishment’s star rating before they made purchases or addressed themselves to the menu. The FSA’s intentions on labelling are likely to require more and more information on foodstuffs and at points of sale and on menus. VEGA is pleased to see initiatives by the European Food Safety Agency that accord with VEGA’s requirements for descriptions on the welfare of animals used in making the appropriate foods. This is an advance that VEGA has been urging on the British Food Standards Agency.

7. The shortcomings in training and competence in matters of food hygiene undermine any confidence in assurances over animal welfare in the rearing, care, and killing of animals deemed fit for Jewish methods of slaughter. They reinforce the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s objections to these practices (shechita).  

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