The FSA’s website

By Jeremy Wilson on August 22nd, 2013

For years, tech bloggers have been telling us that the internet will change our lives. Well, it’s finally happened. The Food Standards Agency’s website will transform your life forever. Specifically, the food hygiene ratings section, which ranks almost every restaurant, café, takeaway, hotel and food shop in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The website is addictive, but be warned: what has been seen can never be unseen. Like Goatse, the Food Standards Agency’s website provides a glimpse in the dark heart of things we might be better off not exploring. It’s a fully searchable database of every restaurant in the UK, together with a health and safety assessment.

The reviews are succinct: a 1 to 5 rating and short explanation. It’s not much information, but it’s enough for your mind to fill in the blanks.

Take my local butcher, Cameron’s Quality Butchers, “Purveyors of the Finest Meats since 1999” and the home of “Forest Gold Hand Cured Bacon”. The Food Standards Agency gives ‘Cameron’s’ a hygiene rating of 1 – MAJOR IMPROVEMENT NECESSARY.

Suddenly, those succulent chicken fillets in the window look less appetising.

Ordering Chinese takeaway will never again be simple. Do I want to order from a place more generous with their portions that has a rating of 3: GENERALLY SATISFACTORY? Or do I go for the worse value restaurant with a rating  of 4: GOOD. What’s the effect on value for money when your black bean sauce contains rodent excrement?

Trust me, once you’ve started checking before you head out the door, you’ll never stop. It may not be the bleeding edge web 4.0 experience the geeks say is needed to shake up the food industry. But for giving us a glass wall to the restaurant kitchens of the nation, I give this a “chic”.