A POPULAR pizza chain which opened just last year has been given a one-of-out-five food hygiene rating.

Dough and Co in Maldon High Street has been handed the latest rating following the assessment on December 1, the Food Standards Agency's website shows.

The inspection was undertaken by Maldon Council on behalf of the Government agency.

Records examined include The Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) food specs, temperature record and pest control.

All areas were inspected on the day, with several notes made on improvements required.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Food - Pizzas and drinks at the Maldon restaurantFood - Pizzas and drinks at the Maldon restaurant (Image: Millie Emmett, Newsquest)

In reference to compliance with hygiene and safety practices, it noted ravioli was past its use by date, which was November 24, 2023, and clarity was needed to see if the goat’s cheese was pasteurised.

Notes were also made for improvements to be made in compliance with structural requirements.

Inspectors said the restaurant must thoroughly clean its ventilation canopy and plenum, as well as cleaning below and behind kitchen equipment, fixtures and fittings.

Dough and Co. was told it also must have a “specific wash basin in the kitchen” with hot and cold, or mixed, running water.

The restaurant must also strip flaking paint from its kitchen ceiling, provide suitable floor covering and make sure permanent ventilation is at the rear store.

It was then outlined how to improve its confidence in management and control procedures.

The inspector noted: “Review NCASS food safety management system to confirm critical control point for cooking”.

It added the chef must complete their level 2 training.

The council inspection said the actions outlined must be taken immediately.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Restaurant - Inside the Dough and Co restaurant in MaldonRestaurant - Inside the Dough and Co restaurant in Maldon (Image: Dough and Co.)

The business opened its tenth restaurant in the town last year.

The menu, which is the same as existing Dough and Co restaurants, includes fresh pizzas, pasta, flatbread, salads and burgers.

Other branches across Essex include locations in Halstead, Sudbury, Colchester and more.

The new inspection means that of Maldon's 104 restaurants, cafes and canteens with ratings, 75, 72 per cent, have ratings of five and none have zero ratings.

Bosses refute claims

However, the business has hit back following the report, refuting claims made.

A spokesman said: “The claim regarding our staff's hygiene training is incorrect.

“All staff members have completed level two hygiene training.

“Unfortunately, the documentation was not immediately available during the environmental health officer's unexpected visit.

“We are taking steps to ensure these records are more readily accessible in the future.

 “Secondly, the issue of hot water in our facilities was misrepresented.

“The hot water system is fully operational, and the difficulty experienced by the environmental health officer was due to unfamiliarity with the system rather than a fault on our part.

“We will address this misunderstanding directly with the relevant authorities.

 “Regarding your comments on the ravioli, it is imperative to distinguish between 'best before' and 'use by' dates.

“The ravioli in question was delivered by our supplier with a short 'best before' date, not a 'use by' date.

“This is a significant distinction, as the former refers to quality, whereas the latter pertains to safety.”

The owners also refuted the comments about seeing if the goat’s cheese was pasteurised.

They said: “We serve both pasteurised and unpasteurised cheeses, complying with all relevant food safety regulations.

“The cheese served is of the highest quality and is entirely safe for consumption.”

 Notes were also made on the restaurant needing to thoroughly clean its ventilation canopy, as well as cleaning below and behind kitchen equipment, fixtures and fittings.

“The canopy is cleaned professionally every six months, in line with industry standards,” the spokesman said.

“Our kitchen practices and maintenance schedules adhere strictly to the necessary regulations to ensure a safe and hygienic environment.

 “Lastly, we must emphasize our kitchen is an open-plan design, allowing patrons to observe the food preparation process and the cleanliness of our facilities firsthand.”

“We will be requesting a revaluation of our premises by the local authorities,” the spokesman concluded.