Inspectors from Norway’s state food safety agency Mattilsynet had little to smile about after their most recent visits to 1,100 restaurants in the Oslo area. Six out of 10 restaurants failed to earn the smiley face insignia that symbolizes good hygiene.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Thursday that only 41 percent of the eating places inspected by Mattilsynet in Oslo, Asker and Bærum were awarded the smiley face, which means they met the authorities’ standards for good hygiene.
“We of course wished that the results were better, but we’re not surprised,” Marit Kolle, division chief at Mattilsynet, told NRK. The results show a decline from national inspections earlier this year, when more than 60 percent did well and received smiley faces.
Kolle said that half the restaurants inspected most recently were given a straight face, after inspectors found deficiencies and errors in hygienic routines. “Those establishments get a warning from us that they must improve their routines,” Kolle said.
Another 9 percent were hit with a sour face symbol, meaning they flunked the hygiene inspection. Inspectors can close them on the spot if the violations are severe, or fine them.
The system of symbolizing the hygiene of restaurants was launched January 1 as a means of advising patrons about food safety inspection results. After an initial round of visits to 2,279 restaurants nationwide, around a third failed to win smiley faces.
The restaurants are obliged to post the smiley-, straight- or sour-faced symbols at their front doors. NRK reported earlier this year that Mattilsynet inspectors claimed many were failing to do so, thus “sabotaging” the program.
“If the eating places don’t hang up our evaluation in a visible place for customers to see, they’re only making their situation worse,” Atle Wold of Mattilsynet told NRK. He knew of one concrete case where a restaurant handed a sour face failed to post it, leading to three repeat inspections and fines.
Restaurant inspection results are also made public on the state agency’s own website, matportalen.no/smilefjes.