FIGURES released show that Basildon food businesses are above the national average for food hygiene ratings.

Some 96 food establishments had a hygiene rating of two or below, from 2018-19, which equates to 8 per cent of all food businesses across the borough.

The national average is currently 9 per cent.

However, despite being lower than the national average, as of March, six businesses were placed in the most high risk category of the hygiene rating.

Written warnings were issued to 107 businesses as a result of their poor hygiene ratings.

Also, of all the businesses which faced an inspection or assessment in 2018-19, which may not be all 1,278 establishments across Basildon, three were subject to some kind of formal action from Basildon Council or the courts.

This included two voluntary closures, and one improvement notice.

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.

“One of the FSA’s roles is to have oversight and assurance about their performance.

“It is good to see an increase in the total percentage of planned hygiene interventions that authorities are carrying out and an increase in premises with standards equivalent to a food hygiene rating of three, four and five.”

Basildon Council estimates that it employs the equivalent of 4.2 full-time members of staff who are responsible for managing food hygiene standards, which is 3.2 employees for every 1000 businesses.

This is higher than the national average of 2.6, which is another positive for the council.

A spokesperson from Basildon Council, said: “At the end of March 2019, over 97 per cent of our rated premises were broadly compliant (rated 3 or above).

“New businesses awaiting inspection are reported as not “broadly compliant” although in reality it doesn’t necessarily mean they are failing to meet hygiene standards.

“We seek to visit new businesses to inspect as soon as possible.”