‘I don’t think I deserved it’ - Lavenham tearoom owner reacts to zero food hygiene scoring
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The owner of a tearoom in an iconic Lavenham building has said she will put the business on the market following an “undeserved” zero food hygiene rating.
Everyl Madell runs the popular Munnings Tea Room, which has been based in the intriguing grade-II* listed 'Crooked House' for the last seven years.
It is highly rated on TripAdvisor, with 4.5 out of five from more than 350 reviews - but it did not score so favourably in its latest Food Standards Agency inspection.
The inspector, who visited in May, decided to award zero, when the top possible rating is five - with "urgent improvement" deemed necessary over the management of food safety and improvement required over hygienic food handling.
The cleanliness and condition of the facilities and building was assessed as being "generally satisfactory".
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But Mrs Madell, 68, expressed her upset over the rating, saying it was "totally unnecessary", and now plans to put the business on the market next year.
She said: "It's just dented my enthusiasm a little but to be honest and as you get older you think what you really want to do.
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"It's not an easy thing to be in these days. It is tough. It's expensive rent, expensive rates. I wonder whether it's all worth it at the end of the day."
She added: "I don't think for a minute I deserved that rating. I think it was shocking."
Mrs Madell, who previously ran a hotel for 15 years in Yorkshire, said the concerns over food safety had centred on an out-of-date, shop-bought pot of coleslaw, that was for personal consumption, and some soup residue left in the bottom of a pan - which she admits should have been thrown away sooner, but was not for consumption.
"I don't have a dirty kitchen - I never have and never will," she said. "I take a lot of pride in that place."
The inspector also picked up on a lack of food safety recording, but Mrs Madell, who has two members of staff, said gaps in training are being addressed.
She stressed it was more like a "family kitchen" than a commercial set-up, adding working in a listed property had its constraints.
"I love the Crooked House - to be able to be in a building that's so iconic and make a mark there," she said.
"I would miss it, don't get me wrong, but I won't miss the stress."
She said she had also had to deal with unpleasant comments on Facebook following the zero food hygiene rating.
A new rating is due to be published soon.