Two Wiltshire pubs that received food hygiene ratings of one-out-of-five have spoken out to clarify the types of things that can lead to low ratings even at clean establishments.

The Plume of Feathers in Shrewton was only recently acquired by Colin Nufer and his partner Sara, who are renovating the pub following their takeover.

A Wiltshire Council health inspector arrived unannounced in January. Colin believes it was inappropriate to proceed with the inspection under such circumstances.

The new publicans had received no prior guidance as to exactly what aspects of the business food hygiene inspectors would assess.

He said: “We do think it a little unfair for the agency to launch the unannounced inspection whilst our major renovations are taking place and during the first few months of us taking over the pub.

"Perhaps an advisory visit or communication should be carried out, particularly as we have only just taken over and are new to this. It appeared to us that the inspection was geared mainly towards providing paperwork and understanding legislation and did not consider cleanliness or our procedures.”

Paperwork, or lack thereof, can have a major effect on food hygiene scores. Further south in the county, in Whiteparish, The Kings Head also received a one-out-of-five score.

The manager, who asked not to be named, said the paperwork for the last year had been accidentally destroyed after a pipe burst. The documents contained records such as product deliveries and other details on the operation of the pub.

SEE ALSO: Three Salisbury businesses receive one-out-of-five food hygiene ratings

The manager said: “We had the unfortunate accident that the documents that needed to be presented were destroyed on accident. Mainly if you don’t have any documents when you’re getting an inspection, nothing else matters.

“We had everything else satisfactory but without documents you cannot do anything.

“It was a very unlucky day for us. We didn’t get the chance to explain ourselves.”

The manager added that it was disappointing that a food hygiene rating could drop so low due to issues that do not affect cleanliness.

He said: “You’re making us look like we’re a dirty pub—it’s ‘food hygiene’ written there, not ‘documentation’—and we’re not. We’re actually not. We’re a nice-running pub.”

The state of handwashing basins can also have a major impact on scores. According to Colin, some confusion led to the officer inspecting The Plume of Feathers to conclude that there was no hot running water in the kitchen wash basin, which is required by law.

Colin said: “[The inspector] highlighted that we should have hot running water to the hand washing basin. I have now ensured that the outlet tap clearly shows which side delivers hot water and which side delivers cold so hopefully the next inspecting officer will not run the cold water outlet and decide we have no hot, which we do.”

Both The Kings Head and The Plume of Feathers are due for re-inspections.

Despite the disappointment at the low food hygiene rating, plans for the reopening of The Plume of Feathers are moving forward with optimism and Colin believes the pub can regain its positive score.

Colin said: “It is also interesting to note that we are mainly a wet sales pub and have been praised by cellar technicians and supplier reps on the high standards the cellar is now maintained at. Very little interest was shown to the cellar despite it being mentioned on the report as being inspected.

“We have however worked hard to ensure that all measures highlighted are more apparent and available and that we are totally compliant should we wish to provide a food service in the future.

"We do look forward to the inspecting officers revisit, but only when our renovations are complete and when the pub re-opens, and trust that after the visit we can reapply and have our rating established to its correct level.”

Wiltshire councillor Nick Holder, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “When a new food business is registered, we provide guidance on how to comply with food hygiene regulations and advise on where they can access free training and other resources to support them in achieving a food hygiene rating of 5 at their initial inspection. We aim to carry out an initial inspection of the business within 28 days from the day they start trading. As far as possible visits to premises are carried out unannounced to ensure officers get an accurate impression of how the business operates.

“After the initial inspection by Wiltshire Council’s food and safety officers the business is risk rated to determine how often we carry out a routine food hygiene inspection. Elements of the rating are used to determine the food hygiene rating  published by the Food Standards Agency.

“All businesses are advised that they must have an appropriate documented food safety management system in place before they start trading and they are reminded that not having a documented food safety system in place will seriously affect their food hygiene rating.”