Takeaway order app and website Just Eat has revealed that it removed 35 restaurants from its register last summer for irregularities around food hygiene ratings.
The revelation comes after a BBC Inside Out East investigation that found five takeaways on the app were not registered with the local council. One of the sites was in Basildon, Essex and was visited by the BBC which found that there was no evidence it had been used for anything other than a car wash for at least two years.
Just Eat said the restaurants in question signed up to the platform before 2009 when it introduced a policy to ensure all takeaways had an official hygiene rating.
They also said it carried out a nine-month audit from November 2016, which uncovered the irregularities, ranging from incorrect address details through to not being registered. It said these included those found by the BBC investigation.
A spokesperson said: ‘We removed a total of 35 businesses from our platform during our audit and can confirm that we have proof of registration for every restaurant operating on our platform today.’
‘Whilst it is incredibly rare for us to find an unregistered business on our site, whenever we are made aware of a business which may be operating incorrectly, we immediately take them offline, so that our dedicated restaurant compliance team can investigate.’
The firm has said that it does allow businesses to trade on its website and app with a zero food hygiene rating if it is allowed to trade on the high street by the local council.
Hygiene ratings are not displayed on the Just Eat site or app, although a link to the Food Standards Agency food hygiene ratings directory is included so customers can look up the individual restaurant.
Just Eat food safety manager, Seth Gulliver, said: ‘We take food safety extremely seriously and actively work to raise standards across the takeaway sector.
‘Any restaurant wishing to partner with us must be FSA registered with the relevant local authority, and provide evidence of this, before we put them on our platform.
‘Local authorities are then responsible for carrying out inspections to check businesses meet the requirements of food hygiene law.’
He added that at number of checks are carried out by Just Eat when a business joins its site and app. However, the company relies on businesses self-reporting changes as well as local councils, where good relationships have been built.
Mr Gulliver added: ‘We positively incentivise food safety and make numerous resources available to our restaurant partners to support and improve standards in this area, such as dedicated online training and a partnership with NSF, the leading global Food Safety consultants, offering various packages to our partners including having a qualified auditor coming into their business to help improve standards.’
He said the company was hopeful it will be able to display ratings of restaurants in the near future. However, Just Eat was mindful that this could cause a surge in inspection requests to councils and would be looking at the best way to involve councils in this work.
Just Eat’s website and app have 10 million customers and take orders on behalf of around 28,000 food outlets in the UK, charging customers a 50p service charge each time.