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UK's Michelin-Starred Restaurants Face Hygiene Scrutiny

Some kitchens' health scores don't live up to their critical accolades

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London's Chez Bruce, which boasts one Michelin star.
London's Chez Bruce, which boasts one Michelin star.
Chez Bruce/Facebook

Restaurants that earn coveted Michelin stars are perceived to be at the top of their class, but the cleanliness of their kitchens might not meet that reputation. Michelin-starred restaurants in the United Kingdom may soon be forced to post health ratings in plain view, reports the Telegraph. It's part of an effort by the government "to reduce the risk of diners eating unsafe food and becoming ill."

In December, The UK's Food Standards Agency reportedly found that 83 percent of chain restaurants achieved 5-out-of-5 health ratings, while only 55 percent of the country's Michelin-starred restaurants met that mark. Restaurants that receive a 5 rating are deemed to have "very good" health standards. Those that fall short have improvements to be made in one or more areas.

One high-end restaurateur told the Telegraph chain restaurants have an easier path to perfect health ratings. "It is very difficult for restaurants like ours as unlike high street chains which have restricted menus, we have fresh food coming through the day — sometimes up to 70 different items," Bruce Poole, owner of London's Michelin-starred Chez Bruce, said. "We have to be able to show that all these pieces of produce have been handled correctly. For example we were downgraded from five stars because we couldn't prove that we had frozen some fish at the correct temperature."

The UK government no doubt hopes to avoid the growing problem of foodborne illness outbreaks currently seen in the United States. But in this country, mass-produced food, as opposed to fancy restaurants, seems more likely to be the culprit. In 2015 alone, burrito giant Chipotle dealt with salmonellaE. coli, and norovirus outbreaks. Blue Bell Creameries and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams both shut down production due to listeria-tainted products. In September, a former peanut executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison for his company's role in a massive salmonella outbreak that killed nine people.

Despite UK restaurateurs' concerns, an FSA spokesperson told the Telegraph forcing upscale restaurants to post their ratings "will increase the spotlight on those not meeting the grade."