Grubby food tag

The Yass Valley was labelled as one of the dirtiest council areas for food hygiene standards by a major daily newspaper, a claim refuted by local business owners.

The Daily Telegraph reported 12.4 per cent of businesses in the Yass Valley were fined for breaking food hygiene rules.

“I can’t believe that’s been written,” Emma Luckie from Kaffeine in Yass said. “That’s saying that every eatery in Yass would be terrible to go to.

“People are coming into our town, wanting to come here and sample our foods and drink our wines… it would have a major impact.”

The statistics come from a NSW Food Authority report from July 2011 to June 2012 when 11 penalty notices were issued.

The story also listed two instances where businesses were fined in the past six months, for having a dog in an indoor eating area and someone smoking in a food handling area.

Kevin Gallimore from Café Dolcetto said it was a small number of businesses casting a shadow over the whole region.

“We need more business in town. We don’t need things like this, especially when it’s on the third page in the Telegraph.”

He said the instances listed for the valley, when compared with other areas, were much less extreme.

“They [businesses in Strathfield and Ashfield] had cockroaches and everything, they were absolutely filthy,” he said.

“Fresh chicken breast in the laneway [or] raw food under benches, is a lot worse than someone smoking,” he said.

Yass Valley Council inspects food premises across the local government area.

“I would say food shops within the Yass Valley are generally very good,” council’s director of planning and environmental services, Paul De Szell, said.

He said it was council’s role to ensure people eating in the local government area were safe.

“We inspect our food shops twice a year to ensure we have an appropriate level of food hygiene,” he said.

Mr Gallimore said council’s inspectors were doing a thorough job.

“It shows that the Yass shire is doing their work where other councils aren’t... The other shires are not probably strict enough,” Mr Gallimore said.

Shires around the Yass Valley follow similar inspection procedures.

Chris Maloney from Harden Shire Council said his council’s policy was to inspect every food business once a year, with higher risk businesses inspected twice yearly.

He said higher risk businesses included those that use a lot of raw eggs, seafood and meat.

“The last round we issued just three clean up notices. There were no infringements,” Mr Maloney said.

Palerang and Upper Lachlan Shire councils hadn’t returned the Tribune’s calls at the time of going to press.

Local business owners are adamant that the food hygiene standards in Yass are fine.

Local business owners are adamant that the food hygiene standards in Yass are fine.