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A new county has topped the table of Ireland's dirtiest restaurants and takeaways for 2017

Take a bow Donegal.

shutterstock_551855638 Source: Shutterstock/View Apart

THE NUMBER OF Irish restaurants and takeaways shut for food safety offences in 2017 was down significantly on the same figure for the previous year – but that hasn’t stopped a new county from topping the inauspicious list, relative to its population.

As you might expect the table is dominated by Ireland’s most populous counties Dublin and Cork with 17 and 7 closures respectively. Dublin’s closures are predominantly on the south side of the Liffey with 12 orders enacted compared to the northside’s five (in Cork the honours are shared around the county, aside from Cobh, which has two closures). However it’s the county coming in third place that is perhaps most noteworthy.

Donegal, Ireland’s 8th most populated county per Census 2016 (with just under a quarter the number of people resident as Cork), nevertheless managed six separate closures last year to arrive in third place – a jump from 12th in 2016. That makes it the county with the highest closure rate (by some distance) per head of population.

Interestingly, the towns involved are spread right around the sprawling Ulster county – in Ballybofey, Manorcunningham, Dungloe, Donegal Town, Inishowen, and Creeslough.

Again, going by head of population, the highest closure rates seen after Donegal are in Sligo, Longford, and Louth.

There was good news for Roscommon however – having had seven establishments shut the previous year, in 2017 there were no closure orders whatsoever seen in the Connacht county.

Inspections

In that respect, Roscommon joins 15 other counties in having a clean bill of health for the year just past. And that doesn’t mean that no businesses were inspected in those regions – almost every food establishment (49,000 in 2016) gets seen by the HSE, which holds the contract from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) for inspecting public-facing businesses like restaurants, each year.

Burger Chart Source: Statista

Click here to view a larger image

In fact the overall number of businesses closed has decreased significantly in the past 12 months – the 52 orders served were down from 62 in 2016, a drop of 16%. However, four new counties – Sligo, Westmeath, Longford, and Kildare – have made an appearance on the naughty list after keeping their noses clean in 2016.

Those restaurants and takeaways shut in Ireland last year do not take into account a further 17 orders served on other kinds of food businesses – such as butchers, juice dispensaries, and supermarkets.

The businesses closed upon inspection are split roughly 60:40 between restaurants (31) and takeaways (21). The full list for 2017 is as follows:

  1. Dublin – 17
  2. Cork – 7
  3. Donegal – 6
  4. Tipperary – 3
  5. Louth – 3
  6. Wexford – 2
  7. Sligo – 2
  8. Meath - 2
  9. Limerick - 2
  10. Galway - 2
  11. Wicklow – 1
  12. Westmeath - 1
  13. Longford - 1
  14. Laois - 1
  15. Kildare - 1
  16. Clare - 1

A table of each of the 51 businesses closed, and their location, can be viewed here.

There is only one repeat offender on 2017′s list, an Indian takeaway based on Richmond Street in central Dublin which was closed twice in February and (a number of other closed businesses share a moniker, albeit in very different parts of the country). However, certain areas of Dublin boasted two closures apiece: Drumcondra on the city’s northside, and Blackrock and Dun Laoghaire in south Dublin.

The small town of Cobh, Co Cork, is the worst offender elsewhere in the country – two businesses also received their marching orders there.

GIF The roll of shame Source: FSAI

When it comes to enforcement orders, the most common offences noted by inspectors relate to issues of cleanliness, HACCP procedures (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, which broadly relates to food safety), pest control, and equipment being unfit for purpose.

In September 2017, the FSAI began publishing the orders it was serving on businesses for the first time – information that had previously been available only via freedom of information.

Salmonella

Recent such examples include a Meath pizzeria being shut due to an issue with human excrement bubbling up in a staff toilet in December, a Cork Chinese takeaway receiving a closure order due to ‘prolific evidence of rodent droppings’ in October, and numerous pest infestations (including cockroaches, insects, and mice) causing the closure of businesses in September. Earlier in the year, in May, the kitchen of a Dublin pub was shut for 27 days due to a high-profile salmonella outbreak.

Closure orders are almost invariably hygiene-related, although they do vary in severity.

That doesn’t mean, however, that receiving one isn’t serious. Only 52 premises were closed last year, a drop in the ocean compared to the many thousands of food establishments inspected.

thejournal Sign placed in the window of a closed business in Drumcondra, north Dublin, in early 2017 Source: TheJournal.ie

Registered businesses are inspected either by rota or following a valid complaint from a member of the public. If an order is served, the business remains closed until it has rectified the problem. If it is lifted, the business has its record scrubbed from the FSAI’s website after three months.

Generally speaking a business has a clear idea of what it must do with regard to getting its closure order lifted. The lifting of these bans is one aspect that has disimproved since 2016, when the average amount of time required to return to normal operations was 9.8 days. That figure is now 15. 4 days. In other words, either offences are getting worse, or businesses are struggling more than before to bring themselves back up to scratch.

Businesses in Meath and Tipperary took easily the longest to remove their enforcement orders – 84 and 56.3 days respectively. Seven businesses across the country, mostly restaurants, had their ban lifted within one working day.

Dublin, Cork, and Donegal-based businesses, the three worst-offending counties, took 7.4, 16.1, and 14.8 days respectively to get their bans lifted.

Two restaurants, one in Drumcondra, north Dublin, and the other (which has now ceased trading) in Gorey, Co Wexford, failed to get their closure order lifted entirely, with the ban remaining outstanding.

Read: Nóirín O’Sullivan asked Frances Fitzgerald to tell Dáil her legal strategy against McCabe in May 2016, Tribunal hears

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