EIGHT food businesses in the Newquay area scored just 1 out of 5 in hygiene inspections this year, the Cornish Guardian has learnt.
One pub – the Treguth Inn at Holywell Bay – was even given a score of zero following a visit by a Cornwall Council inspector, on behalf of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), in April.
The venues that scored 1 out of 5 were: Hendra Holiday Park; Monkey Tree Holiday Park at Rejerrah; Kahuna, on Tolcarne Beach; Indian Summer, on East Street; the Old Boathouse on South Quay Hill; Out To Munch, on the same street; Clarabelle's Kitchen at Dairyland Farmworld; and the Smuggler's Den at Cubert.
FSA guidelines reveal a score of 1 means "major improvement necessary", while a zero implies "urgent improvement necessary". Scores do not relate to the quality of service or food.
Most of the nine eaterie owners told this paper they were marked down heavily for failing to fill out paperwork correctly or use a rigid method of documentation demanded by the government agency.
All said they had since acted on issues raised by inspectors and some had even been regraded – although the new score had not been reflected on the FSA's website.
The scores are publicly available on the site, which can be reached via Cornwall Council's own. Copies of the inspectors' reports were released to this paper under the Freedom of Information Act.
James Sutton, landlord of the Treguth Inn, said: "We don't feel that our score accurately reflects our hygiene procedures. However, we upheld all the recommendations and beyond.
"When re-inspected within one week of the original inspection, the inspector remarked on the thoroughness of our efforts and applauded us accordingly."
Abul Chowdhury, owner of Indian Summer, said the inspector had returned to his restaurant after the visit to treat his family to dinner.
"I don't think he has any real concerns," he said.
The owners of Kahuna said they had not even been informed of their score after their inspection at the end of April. They are questioning the inspection with Cornwall Council.
Robert May, a director of Hendra, said the three eateries on the park had individually not scored less than three out of five, but had inexplicably received a combined score of only one out of five.
"I'm not happy that my premises could be perceived as having anything lower than a decent score," he said.
A spokeswoman for the FSA hit back at criticism of the new scoring system, saying accurate paperwork was vital to prove that hygiene standards remained consistent between inspections.
"The FSA does not consider criticism from low-rated food businesses to be an indication that the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme isn't working," she said.
"In fact, that is the very purpose of the scheme – to bring hygiene standards into the open so that those businesses that aren't up to scratch can no longer hide behind the kitchen doors."