A food safety lawyer has called for better hygiene standards in takeaways and greater awareness from consumers following a report by the Guardian which shows one in seven takeaways and one in 13 restaurants in the UK have failed food hygiene tests.

The figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), analysed by the Guardian, comprised of food hygiene reports for more than 460,000 businesses and found that 6.4 per cent had failed their inspections.

The Food Standards Agency has a ranking system across England, Wales and Northern Ireland which scores establishments from zero to five. A score of two or below is classed as failing. Each local authority is responsible for ranking food providers and the figures vary widely across the country. Scotland has a different system which ranks establishments as ‘pass and eat’, ‘pass’ and ‘improvement required’.

Legal action can be taken by inspectors against businesses that fail to meet the standards and penalties can include community service, fines and even custodial sentences.

Michelle Victor, food safety lawyer at law firm Leigh Day, said: “Consumers have the right to expect that the food and drink that they consume is safe. It is important that they understand food hygiene ratings to they can make informed choices about who produces and prepares their food.

“I am glad that the issue has been raised by a national newspaper in the hope that it will raise awareness in consumers and that those establishments with the lowest scores will improve their food hygiene scores.

“Although only a minority of takeaways and restaurants are failing the FSA inspections the potential health consequences of poor food hygiene can be devastating.

“Poor food hygiene can lead to food poisoning which has a number of nasty symptoms and in rare cases can even be fatal. It is therefore extremely important that food establishments adhere to the FSA standards to ensure their food is safe for their customers.”