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Food safety in Swiss restaurants under the spotlight

An alarming number of Swiss restaurants failed food inspections last year, sparking concerns that eating out is a health risk. But the authorities are at pains to point out that the vast majority of Swiss restaurants are safe places to eat.

This content was published on January 25, 2000 - 08:48

An alarming number of Swiss restaurants failed food inspections last year, sparking concerns that eating out is a health risk. But the authorities are at pains to point out that - apart from the odd bad apple - the vast majority of Swiss restaurants are safe places to eat.

At first sight, the statistics make alarming reading. In canton Berne, every second restaurant failed to meet the criteria set by the health inspectors. Zurich did a little better - there, one third failed to make the grade and nine restaurants were closed down. In Solothurn, 40 per cent of deep fat fryers were found to be unhygienic.

Worse still, among the appetising dishes in the kitchens of many Swiss restaurants, health inspectors found rats, cockroaches and food well past its sell-by-date.

But health inspectors say that, before anyone takes a pledge never to eat out in Switzerland again, the findings should be subjected to closer scrutiny.

Although 80 percent of restaurants failed to fulfill all the inspectors' criteria, only "one or two per cent were so bad that they had to be closed immediately," said Dr Erhard Walter of Berne's restaurant inspection team.

The criteria are wide-ranging and exacting. Food quality and hygiene are of primary importance, and restaurants must ensure that food is stored properly and at the correct temperature. All menus must also clearly display the country of origin of all meat, and the alcohol content of all drinks.

Moreover, under new regulations, restaurants are obliged to keep records of all food storage, preparation and hygiene procedures.

As a final safeguard, samples of food may be taken to a laboratory for analysis. Dr Walter says this is so the health inspectors can determine which micro-organisms are present, and the level of chemical substances in the food.

"Food samples are brought to a laboratory, where they are analysed for micro-organisms or traces of chemicals," according to Dr Walter, who believes
Swiss restaurants are safe to eat in.

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