St Hilda’s JCR is currently the bearer of a damning food rating of 1/5, making it the most unsafe place to eat in Oxford University premises.
In documents recently uncovered by The Oxford Student, staff were told that many aspects of the JCR bar and canteen were “unacceptable” and “must be dealt with immediately.”
The 1/5 rating, issued by the UK Food Standards Agency earlier this year, signifies that the area needed ‘Major Improvement’ before it was considered acceptable.
This places St Hilda’s JCR as the least safe place to eat on Oxford University premises, according to their most recent inspection.
A feature focused on by the report was the inspector’s confidence in the management ability of JCR staff, which was rated as poor. Both the Hilda’s bar and ‘Buttery’ canteen are run entirely by Oxford students, and are licenced as the same venue.
In response to whether the JCR had removed the officials at the time of the report, JCR President Bridget McManamon stated: “Every year, as a JCR we elect new Bar and Buttery managers, so from the start of Michaelmas we’ve had new managers anyway.”
However, she did say that the report had been brought to the attention of the JCR in a meeting towards the end of last term.
As well as falling behind Hassan’s kebab van, Hilda’s current food safety rating places it below Ahmed’s and Dennis’ establishments, who both currently hold 5/5 scores.
The report stated that inspectors discovered opened packets of different cooked and uncooked meats next to each other in the JCR fridge, with it being “unknown as to how long the packets had been open for.” It further stated that “unacceptable” levels of dirt were found on many surfaces and that no protective clothing was worn when food was being prepared.
Since the release of the report in May this year, the JCR has undergone a significant refurbishment which was completed in time for the beginning of term this year.
McManamon expressed confidence that the changes made during the summer would be enough to change the opinion of the inspectors, saying, “The refurbishment work has made an incredible difference to the bar and buttery. The space is now hardly recognisable, and a much more pleasant area both for the whole JCR to enjoy, and for the bar and buttery staff to work.”
She added: “The refurbishment also meant that we could dictate the changes we felt were needed. For example, we now have considerably more fridge space – to keep food separate and free from contamination – work surfaces, and storage space (for food, and also separate areas for staff items) which has allowed us to address all the concerns of the report.”
However, she was quick to stress that the renovation was not completely a result of the inspection: “The refurbishment wasn’t provoked by the report, ideas had been in place for many years, and had been planned for this summer for a long time.”
When asked about the rating, current ‘Buttery’ manager Elizabeth Aspinall-Budge stated: “The reason for the low rating last year was mostly due to bad space and a lack of record keeping.”
“We have been working closely with the catering manager of St Hilda’s Dining Hall, who has level 5 standard, to ensure that when we have a new inspection we will be up to scratch – and have every confidence that it will be.”
She also praised the development over the summer, claiming: “The space is now completely refurbed and we have rectified the record keeping in line with government standards.”
Only one other College facility is currently in possession of a rating lower than 3/5. Worcester College kitchen was given a score of two in March, meaning that inspectors deemed improvement necessary.
In a report of March this year, the FSA called on Worcester authorities to improve an “old and worn” kitchen.
The report stated: “Wall edges are damaged, paint is flaking in several areas and it is difficult to clean. There are an inadequate number of wash hand basins and some of the equipment such as the dairy walls in the fridge has a won and damaged floor.”
The FSA describes itself as a government department that works with businesses to “help them produce safe food.”