Chinese restaurants and takeaways have dirtier kitchens than eating places serving other styles of cooking, according to environmental health officers.
A national survey of hygiene ratings found that more than half of 491 Chinese outlets failed to meet all legal requirements aimed at preventing food poisoning among diners. Almost half of Indian restaurants and takeaways surveyed also scored poorly in the survey of different cuisines, which was carried out for The Independent.
Similarly low ratings were given to kebab shops, while failings were found at a quarter of fish and chip shops and one in five Italian establishments. By contrast, corporate burger bars run by McDonald's and KFC chicken houses were found to be very clean.
Environmental health officers believe Chinese and Indian chefs struggle on hygiene because of "a combination of culture and language", according to Paul Hiscoe, a director of Transparency Data, which carried out the survey. They did not always understand food laws and often had difficulty understanding instructions from council officers, he said.
Several Chinese and Indian restaurants have been prosecuted for rodent infestations and other serious problems in the past year. The cockroach-infected Tai Pan restaurant in Manchester, for instance, was fined £70,000 in December by a magistrate who described its standards of cleanliness as "absolutely outrageous", while in March the Bahar Tandoori on the Isle of Wight was fined £4,000 for failing properly to disinfect and clean equipment, despite several warnings.
Neither were included in the survey by the website scoresonthedoors. org.uk, which displays the hygiene ratings of 105,000 food businesses. By law, all food outlets open to the public are inspected by environmental health officers, most of which hand out star ratings of between five and zero.
Transparency Data checked the ratings for businesses with the following words in their title: China, India, Italia, kebab, fish, McDonald's and KFC. The search brought up 4,090 outlets.
Of the 491 restaurants with "China" in the title, 33 per cent were rated two-star, meaning they needed to make more effort to hit all legal requirements designed to stop the spread of bacteria that cause stomach bugs.
Some 21 per cent were one-star, indicating poor compliance, while one in 10 received no stars, indicating they were "very poor" with a general failure to meet legal standards.
Of the 567 places with "kebab" in the title, 53 per cent scored fewer than three stars, while the figure for Indian restaurants and takeaways was 48 per cent. McDonald's had 4 per cent and KFC 1 per cent in the three lowest tiers, and overwhelmingly scored four or five-star ratings.
Despite its good performance, KFC was fined £11,000 this month after an inspector found a cockroach eating a chip at a central London branch – demonstrating that hygiene can vary within the same style or ownership.
The Food Standards Agency estimates around 850,000 people in the UK fall victim to food poisoning every year. But environmental health reports only became publicly available five years ago with the introduction of freedom of information legislation.
Among the problems that emerged were failings at some of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. Two years ago, an analysis of 10 restaurant chains by The Independent revealed that one third of Yo! Sushi restaurants surveyed did not meet all legal standards.
At the time, 8 per cent of McDonald's and 6 per cent of KFC branches scored under three stars, indicating that both have significantly improved their hygiene in the past two years.
55% with under 3 stars in 5-star ratings
Hundreds of Chinese eating places failed to score more than two out of five for hygiene.
Sample Size: 491
Many takeaways selling the Middle-Eastern meat snack were dirty, found the survey.
Sample Size: 567
Fewer than half of restaurants and takeaways serving Indian food met all legal requirements.
Sample Size: 453
Fish restaurants and chippies performed better, but still one quarter fared badly.
Sample Size: 2,053
One of the better performers, with almost half of the premises rated four or five star.
Sample Size: 123
The US burger giant had the highest proportion of four and five star scores, 84 per cent.
Sample Size: 312
The cleanest, with one in 100 fried chicken outlets scoring badly, despite a recent court case.
Sample Size: 91