YOU still need to watch where you eat in Bexley according to the latest food hygiene figures.

In August the borough was rated the worst local authority in the country for the cleanliness of its catering establishments with the highest proportion of zero ratings under the Food Standards Agency's (FSA) food hygiene rating scheme.

That figure has since fallen from 9.1 per cent in July last year to 6.4 per cent as of February 15 but the proportion of caterers rated one - meaning major improvement is required - has risen from 20 per cent in July to 21.5 per cent now.

More than a third of Bexley caterers inspected - 35.6 per cent - failed their inspections by scoring two or less.

The news comes after Pizza Hut in Erith - one of almost 50 premises in the borough graded zero - was found to be so dirty even equipment coming out of the dishwasher was considered a health hazard.

Under the FSA system - which has operated in Bexley for nine months - businesses receive a score of nought to five, where five indicates very good hygiene standards and nought means urgent improvement is required.

Nearly a third of businesses, 30.6 per cent, have the top rating of five for "very good" which is the most popular rating.

A council spokeswoman said: "The initial stages of inspection were targeted those premises most likely to be problematic, such as takeaway premises, which inevitably means an initially higher proportion of lower scores than we would expect to see once all inspections have been completed.

"We strongly urge everyone to check out the rating of the premises that they frequent, and question why they are using anywhere with a rating of less than 3.

"Public reaction can be a major factor in encouraging businesses to adopt higher standards."


Inspection targets 

A Labour councillor claims the council missed its own target for inspecting premises by nearly 30 per cent last year, managing to inspect only 463 places from a target of 634.

Opposition spokesman for the environment Sean Newman branded the shortfall an "out of the park miss".

He said: "The council is making so much noise about food hygiene at the moment but the truth is that they aren’t able to hit their own targets.

"With the horsemeat scandal unfolding daily local residents are relying on the council to make sure the food they eat is safe but the Conservative council is letting them down."

But a council spokeswoman hit back, saying the target was for 634 interventions, which covers inspections and other proceedures including sampling and intelligence gathering visits.

It is claimed the council made 180 other actions on top of the inspections, putting Bexley past its target with 643 interventions for 2012.