MORE than 250 businesses in the Coleraine area have gained top marks for good food hygiene in a new UK-wide ratings scheme.

Last week saw the results of the new Food Hygiene Ratings scheme, operated by the Food Standards Agency.

And The Coleraine Times can reveal that of over 600 premises inspected in the borough, 260 gained the top rating, level 5, or ‘very good standard.’

However at the opposite end of the scale 33 premises were given the a level one rating - indicating that major improvement is needed.

The rating is not a guide to quality food, it only reflects the standard of food hygiene found on the day of inspection.

Ratings are given to places where you can eat, like restaurants, cafes, sandwich shops, pubs and hotels.

Scores are also given to schools, hospitals and residential care homes and places where we shop for food, such as supermarkets, bakeries and delicatessens.

Many businesses in the borough are exempt from inspection - newsagents for example, which only sell sweets and are deemed to be a low risk to people’s health, so they are not included in the scheme.

Food safety officers have been inspecting local businesses in the past months to check how well they are obeying the law.

They have looked at how hygienically food is handled, how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored, the condition of the structure of buildings including the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities.

In addition, the inspections examined how businesses manage and record what it does to make sure food is safe.

Businesses do not have to display their rating, but the Food Standards Agency says that putting a hygiene rating on show is a good advertisement for businesses that meet the requirement of food hygiene law.

To see how local businesses are rated visit www.food.gov.uk/