Which? analysed thousands of food hygiene ratings from businesses given from 2011 onwards to draw up a list of the best and worst performing areas and high street chains across the country.
When it came to areas, the London borough of Bexley was singled out as having the worst hygiene standards, possessing six of the 10 worst postcodes, while Birmingham's B35 area came top, with none of the food outlets inspected in the area receiving below a three ‘generally satisfactory’ score.
The hygiene ratings of high street restaurant chains, takeaways and convenience stores were also studied for the report.
In the restaurant category, 18 per cent of La Tasca outlets inspected were found to have a rating less than ‘generally satisfactory’ and 13 per cent of Little Chefs inspected had low ratings. Both told Which? they had already or were taking action to make improvements with their low-rated restaurants.
However, while Which? highlighted businesses with low hygiene scores, it also singled out major chains with high quality levels of hygiene. Carluccio’s, Eat, Marriot Hotels, Premier Inn and Zizzi were all found to have ratings of three or above at their outlets.
For its report Which? also asked consumers for their views on food hygiene ratings and found that 95 per cent believe that the voluntary scheme should be mandatory. Of those surveyed, 75 per cent also said they would not eat somewhere with a rating of two or lower.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: “Our investigation shows that food hygiene is an unacceptable postcode lottery. Diners shouldn’t be taking a risk with their health simply by choosing the wrong area in which to eat out. We want everywhere that serves food to the public to display their hygiene score prominently so people can make an informed choice.”
Responding to the report, Mark Harrington, chief executive of hotel auditing company Check Safety First, said businesses should train staff in good hygiene and should see it as integral to the business.
"It shouldn’t take national surveys like this to spark improvement in food hygiene standards," he said.
"Not only should we have compulsory scores on the doors displayed outside every UK restaurant, we strongly recommend that establishments follow strict food hygiene procedures and offer regular training, as well as reiterating acceptable standards to staff. The consequences of not doing this can be fatal. It’s of extreme importance that restaurants place food hygiene and the safety of customers as a high priority as part of their business agendas."
The Food Standards Agency introduced its national food hygiene rating scheme in 2010 to provide a level playing field for businesses serving food. The scheme was recently made mandatory in Wales, however after a review found that many businesses there had failed to display ratings.