THE head of the team which carries out food hygiene inspections has defended a decision not to close a takeaway when it plummeted to zero stars saying it was not bad enough.

Happy Taste was downgraded to zero stars - which means "urgent improvement is necessary" - by Worcestershire Regulatory Services last year.

Prior to receiving zero stars last April the Chinese takeaway, in Orchard Street, had been rated as one star - meaning major improvement is necessary - for more than three years.

Some readers questioned why WRS allowed the venue to stay open at the time and now Helen Cameron, WRS' food hygiene principal officer, has explained it did not reach WRS requirements to take enforcement action forcing it to shut.

Mrs Cameron said: "There are certain standards for closing a premises in our code of practice.

"To close a venue down it has got to be extremely bad - either overrun with rats, or so filthy or dirty, or the working practices so bad, that it has to be closed.

"We can close it but we have to go through the magistrates court to confirm - reaching that level is actually quite difficult for a business. We haven't done any (closures) for a few years.

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"Happy Taste didn't quite meet that category."

Mrs Cameron said when they get a venue "consistently poor" WRS officers attempt to work with staff of the venue over a period of time to help improve the standards, explaining this was the approach being taken with Happy Taste owners.

"Happy Taste won't be subject to a long gap between visits - there will be regular contact, letters and unannounced visits," Mrs Cameron added.

Happy Taste was reinspected in July last year receiving a two star rating, before a further inspection in October when the venue was lowered to a one star rating.

Worcester News:

A spokesman for Happy Taste told us in November: "We don't think it is fair we received a one star rating - we should have had at least two stars.

"After we received the zero stars we shut Happy Taste and cleaned everything."

The spokesman added staff were waiting for a reinspection, but the October inspection remains the last listed for the venue on Food Standards Agency's website.