Richmond was ranked among the 10 worst local authorities for ensuring pubs, cafes and restaurants complied with food hygiene rules.

Consumer watchdog Which? revealed that Richmond Council struggled to get 19.4 per cent of businesses it intervened with to clean up their act and obey food hygiene regulations in 2012-13.

Which? said 29.1 per cent of high and medium risk food businesses in the borough did not comply with food hygiene requirements.

But Councillor Pamela Fleming said there was something a little off with the Which? figures.

She said the figures took into account premises not yet inspected and childminders, which the FSA does not include. She said there many in the borough and that had distorted the results.

She said: “These figures don’t give any indication of the actual safety of the food businesses based in our borough.

“It is very unclear how they have done these calculations and assessing this raw data is very difficult.

“Our officers have been working exceptionally hard to ensure that all businesses are regularly inspected particularly higher risk premises and the results of those inspections are easily available.

“No businesses in the borough can get away with sloppy hygiene practices, our consumer protection team is on the case and if you know of any businesses not meeting your and our exacting standards, you can report it via the council’s phone number or online form.”

Richmond was ranked as the seventh worst in the UK, alongside Ealing, Southwark, Enfield, Medway, Wycombe, Harrow, West Dunbartonshire, Moyle and Bexley, which had the worst record.

The Which? investigation looked at 395 local authorities in the UK and, using data submitted to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), ranked how they performed on food safety enforcement.

Rankings were based on various criteria, including the number of premises compliant with food hygiene requirements, the number of visits made by council inspectors and the proportion of inspections and follow ups that were required but not carried out.

Liberal Democrat MEP for London Sarah Ludford demanded EU action against food fraud in Richmond after the results, which she said were deeply concerning.

She said: “Consumers rightly want to know what's in their food and where ingredients come from.

“In order to tackle food fraud effectively, we must keep a close eye on increasingly international food supply chains. This is an area where concerted EU action has the clear edge over the chaos of 28 different sets of national rules.

“We must work closely with our European partners to tighten up rules and controls so that we can trace the origin and provenance of food products. There should also be stronger penalties across the EU for food fraud in order to help hold manufacturers to account.”

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