THE owner of a Taunton sandwich bar has encouraged business owners who may be struggling with the paperwork required to improve their food hygiene rating to contact him for advice.

Ben Saunders, who has owned Loafers in Bath Place for nearly 13 years, received a Food Standards Agency (FSA) rating of four at his most recent inspection in December after previously being given a rating of one.

He said he received the score of one after struggling to complete the required paperwork – partly because of his dyslexia, and partly because he no longer had the required folder when he was inspected.

“My dyslexia means every time I sign my name, it looks different, so I find it quite difficult to write things down,” said Ben.

“I’m fine with typing and texting, but when it comes to people looking at my handwriting, I get a bit nervous about it and it stops me from doing things that I should be doing.”

He added: “I’ve got a lot of experience with foodstuff having done it for nearly 13 years.

“That’s why I was so upset with myself when I got this one because I know what I’m doing, it’s just the paperwork.

“The crux of it is you have to do paperwork because that’s the evidence of due diligence.”

After receiving a rating of one, Somerset West and Taunton District Council (SWT) emailed him a link he could use to access the resources digitally, which Ben says he was more comfortable using.

“It’s the same principle. You have your food management process, your cleaning management, your order processing, all those sorts of things,” explained Ben.

“It was much easier for me to do, and I didn’t have to concern myself with spelling mistakes or my handwriting.”

Once he completed the digital folder, a “very helpful” SWT council officer re-inspected Loafers on December 3, resulting in Ben receiving a rating of four ('good') – the highest score that can be achieved after receiving a one.

Ben believes other businesses in Taunton could be encouraged to improve their food hygiene ratings “if they can see the example of what I’ve done”, and that his situation could be similar to business owners who struggle to confidently speak, read or write in English.

He says high food hygiene ratings would benefit the businesses that currently have a lower rating and help Taunton gain a reputation as a 'foodie town'.

“There’s dozens of takeaways in Taunton and dozens of restaurants, and quite a few that haven’t got a very good grade,” said Ben.

“I would be happy for someone to come and approach me if they want to talk to me about it and ask, ‘What did you do, and how difficult was it, and how did you go from this to that?’.

Between 3pm and the early evening, Ben says he would be available to speak to other business owners or visit them on their premises.   

He said: “I wouldn’t mind going and giving some people some pointers or encouragement.

“It stresses you out before you start doing it, but once you’ve completed a task – it’s like doing something at school or college or uni – you think, ‘That was fairly easy, and I don’t know what the stress was about.'”

Councillor Andy Sully, executive member for environmental services said: “SWT carry out routine food hygiene inspections on all types of food establishments and are always happy to work with businesses, providing advice and helping to improve standards.

“A good food hygiene rating is something to be proud of. It’s a great achievement which makes a real difference to our food businesses, and it matters to customers.

“I am delighted that Loafers Sandwich Bar has made such significant improvements with the encouragement of the council.”

Loafers was founded in 1978 and can be found at 10 Bath Place, Taunton.

It sells a range of sandwiches with hot and cold fillings, salads, soups, and burgers, and offers an outdoor catering service.

The National Food Hygiene Rating scheme's list of ratings can be found on the Food Standards Agency website.

The agency also provides a template food safety management system called Safer Food Better Business which can be easily downloaded, and it has information and free training on subjects such as allergens which help ensure businesses are compliant with the law.

Read more: MEET THE CHEF: Ben Saunders from Loafers Sandwich Bar in Bath Place, Taunton