Markus Mannheim August 09, 2012
Most of the ACT's food industry opposes a plan to display hygiene ratings outside eateries, though one restaurant body says the complainers ''just don't get it''.
Meanwhile, Labor and the Greens committed yesterday to implementing the ''scores-on-doors'' scheme after the October election.
However, the Liberals held back from endorsing the proposal until the government fixes the ''food safety mismanagement issues'' raised by the Auditor-General.
Government papers accessed under freedom of information law show industry groups and individual businesses have lobbied against the idea of public hygiene ratings.
The Australian Hotels Association argued that what mattered was whether an eatery complied with safety laws. ''Industry must not be forced to implement a scheme without evidence of tangible benefit to the ACT community,'' it said.
ClubsACT and the Australian Food and Grocery Council, which represents fast food outlets, opposed the scheme for similar reasons.
A council paper said any public rating ''should operate on a pass or fail basis so as not to raise concerns between the difference of an establishment rated as good and one rated as excellent and thus create confusion among customers''.
However, Restaurant and Catering Australia's national chief executive, John Hart, says a rating system called Eat Safe has operated successfully in Brisbane for years.
He said yesterday the five-star scheme inspired food outlets to excel in hygiene practices because they could then show customers the results of their efforts.
''This is a system that achieves the same objective as 'naming and shaming' in that it's bad for businesses that fail to comply. But it also promotes the overachievers, and that has to be better than just a blanket blockout.''
Mr Hart said Brisbane's food businesses, including hotels and clubs, all supported the scheme.
Of Canberra's industry bodies, he said: ''They clearly don't understand it. They don't see what the scheme can do for them and how it will help them.''
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher first proposed the scheme in March last year after The Canberra Times highlighted the secrecy that prevented unsafe restaurants from being identified.
Greens health spokeswoman Amanda Bresnan also committed her party yesterday to backing the scheme.
However, Liberal frontbencher Jeremy Hanson reserved his support until existing reforms were in place.
''Until the food safety mismanagement issues raised in the Auditor-General's report are resolved, and recent legislation relating to name and shame, training for food safety staff and display of registration are fully implemented and shown to be working effectively, it would be pre-emptive to implement further food safety schemes.''
He said the Liberals would consider a scores-on-doors scheme after these issues were resolved.
Auditor-General Maxine Cooper's report on the health protection service, issued in December last year, highlighted ''poor documentation and record-keeping practices'', as well as inaccurate information stored in a food safety database.