Published: 11:00, 19 February 2016
| Updated: 11:34, 19 February 2016
A pre-school is among the lowest rated establishments in Tonbridge and Malling, according to the food hygiene regulator.
Each food outlet is inspected by representatives of the Food Standards Agency and given a score between zero and five - zero denotes urgent improvement, while five is very good.
Criteria includes the quality of food preparation and the cleanliness of the kitchen.
Hadlow Community Pre-School was handed the rating of one last month, and is one of just eight businesses in the borough with the score.
The pre-school, in School Lane, is run in partnership with Hadlow College – which received a rating of five – and was last inspected on January 5.
The score was given after the school did not implement a food safety management system, something it had been asked for at a previous inspection.
Spokesman Pat Crawford said: “We were very concerned by the rating and we immediately effected the measures needed to ensure full compliance.
“The welfare and care of the children and staff are our top priorities. We have also been in discussions with the council on this matter.”
Food servers can also find a mistake on inspection day can reflect for months to follow.
Aylesford Priory’s kitchen backs onto the river Medway and scored zero in October, after a mouse infestation from the water was discovered.
Sylvia Scott, finance and operations manager, said: “Our tea rooms have ratings of five.
“Nature didn’t help on the day – we closed the kitchen for a week and quickly resolved the issue.
“Sadly, the result doesn’t reflect that. We’re in communication with the council and the Food Standards Agency who have been understanding and very helpful – they are encouraging us to retest.”
Sometimes even something as small as paperwork not being filled out can result in poor grading – some stores have recently been taken over by new companies and feel the historical grades should be changed.
The 99p Stores on Tonbridge High Street was taken over by Poundland in September.
A spokesperson said the rating of one, given seven months beforehand, is not indicative of the brand’s changes.
“This store is pending conversion to the Poundland brand. Poundland takes matters relating to the health and safety of its colleagues and customers very seriously and has put in place an extensive programme of continual improvements in existing 99p Stores.”
Nino Akgul, owner of Apicius Mediterranean restaurant, formerly Spice Cottage in East Peckham, is unhappy with the score of one, given on January 13.
He said: “We’re appealing the decision, it’s not right and we’re not happy with it. We’ll have to wait and see what they decide – but until then we feel it’s harsh.”
Food safety officers will check how well the business is meeting the law on food hygiene by looking at three main areas, being how hygienically the food is handled; how it is prepared, cooked, cooled, stored; and what measures are taken to prevent food being contaminated with bacteria.
It also looks at the condition of the premises including cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation, equipment and any other facilities.
Finally, it looks at how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe.
The frequency of visits depends on the previous record of a business; some are inspected every six months, while others may wait several years.
It’s by no means all bad news for diners across Tonbridge and Malling, as out of 905 establishments rated by the Food Standards Agency throughout the borough, only nine have a rating of one or lower – one restaurant with a five star rating was last inspected in February 2013.
There were 505 outlets with a top grading of five.
Melanie Henbest, food and safety team manager for TMBC said: “It’s disappointing when premises score a low rating and we are working with these businesses to improve standards.
“Some overlook the basics such as thorough handwashing and separation of raw and ready to eat foods which are vital to food safety."
Premises with a zero rating and last date of inspection:
Aylesford Priory, The Friars, High Street – October 23, 2015
Premises with rating of one:
99p Stores Ltd, Tonbridge High Street – February 5, 2015
Al-Madina Tandoori, Woodlands Parade, Ditton – July 21, 2015
Apicius, Bullen Lane, East Peckham – January 13, 2016
Hadlow Community Pre-School, School Lane, Hadlow – January 5, 2016
Happy Times, London Road, Larkfield – May 11, 2015
Italia Mia, New Road, East Malling – September 16, 2015
The Vineyard, London Road, Wrotham Heath – July 8, 2015
Woodlands Minimarket, Woodlands Parade, Ditton – July 28, 2015
All businesses were approached for a comment by the Kent Messenger. Some declined to comment, others did not return our calls. You can view the food hygiene level of your favourite restaurant by visiting www.food.gov.uk