Southend has been named in the top five most unhygienic cities in the UK to order food in new research by Direct365.

According to the findings, which analyse data from the Food Standards Agency, the top five cities where diners are most likely to find a 1 or 2 star rated restaurant are:

  • Birmingham (11 per cent)
  • Southend (7 per cent)
  • City of Westminster (6 per cent)
  • Dudley (6 per cent)
  • Islington (6 per cent)

Direct365, an essential services provider which works closely with businesses serving menus of all types, has been investigating the nation's food hygiene geography.

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According to the research, Southend is the second city where diners are most likely to find 1 to 2 star Food Standards Agency rated restaurants - which signals an urgent need for change.

The Food Standards Agency rates food businesses as follows:

0 - Urgent improvement needed - Includes serious food hygiene breaches and no record of safety systems. People’s health is at risk.

1 - Major improvements needed - Several food hygiene breaches and lack of staff training.

2- Improvement necessary - Some concerns around handling practices. Facilities need to change quickly.

3 - Generally satisfactory, with no immediate threat to health. Practices for maintaining safety standards are good, but there’s still room for improvement.

4 - Good - The business has good food hygiene practices and safety systems in place, but there are a few minor areas for improvement.

5 - Very good - Excellent hygiene practices and safety systems in place.

Direct365 focused on the 45 most populated cities and towns in England and Wales, analysing the information to determine which places have the highest percentage of zero, one and two-star food outlets, and which locations have the highest percentage of three, four and five-star rated restaurants.

Karl Bantleman, head of digital at Direct365 said: “If you're fortunate enough to be in one of the highest-ranking towns for excellent food hygiene, be aware that standards are much higher than average. You can't be competitive without your own four- or five-star rating. 

“There are a few simple things food establishments can do to improve their rating, including storing food properly, good record keeping, using the right cleaning products, and managing waste properly.”