ALARMING figures show more than one in eight Southend food establishments are not meeting hygiene standards.

Some 215 food establishments in the town had a hygiene rating of two or below, as of 2018/19.

This means that 13 per cent of Southend’s food businesses need urgent improvement, which is higher than the national average, of 9 per cent.

According to the latest data from the Food Hygiene Standards Agency, written warnings were issued to 555 businesses, out of the total 1,610 establishments in Southend.

As of March, three businesses were placed in the most high-risk category of food hygiene ratings,

Of all the businesses which faced an inspection or assessment, six were subject to formal action from Southend Council or the courts.

Martin Terry, councillor for community safety and customer contact, said: “The council’s small team of environmental health officers visit food premises across the borough every day to carry out vital hygiene checks that help inform customers about the premises where they chose to eat or buy food and protect them from sickness.

“An important aspect of their work is to support and educate businesses about good hygiene practices and how they can improve or maintain their standards.

“We advise residents to always check a business’s food hygiene rating before eating out by visiting”

Despite the concerning 13 per cent figure, several businesses across Southend have a five star rating, including The Mermaid cafe, in Palmeira Ave.

A member of staff from the business, aged 17 and from Southend, said: “Everything is kept really clean during the day and overnight.

“We make a conscious effort to keep everything spotless.

“Having a really good food rating draws people. People can’t be turned away because of our hygiene rating.”

Maria Jennings, director of regulatory compliance of the Food Standards Agency, said: “Councils are there to ensure that food businesses produce food that is safe and what it says it is.”