FOOD hygiene inspectors handed out almost 700 written warnings to businesses in Oxford last year for everything from evidence of rats to forged temperature records.

The businesses inspected were mostly restaurants, but included any establishment which handles unpacked food including farms, manufacturers and catering companies.

The data from the Food Standards Agency shows the results of food hygiene intervention inspections in the city between April 2017 and April this year.

Oxford City Council inspectors assessed 1,354 businesses and handed out 661 written warnings during that period.

Any breach of food hygiene regulations can lead to a written warning. Breaches include problems with cleanliness, training of staff, record keeping, washing facilities and separation of cooked and raw foods.

Officials consider the seriousness of the case, as well as the co-operation of the business, before deciding on what action to take.

Eateries sanctioned over poor hygiene included American-style comfort food chain Dirty Bones, based in the Westgate centre, which was criticised in February for staff using the same equipment to pack raw and cooked meats.

Peri Peri Original, meanwhile, raised its zero star rating to two stars in September last year, but inspectors still found evidence of rats and flies at the Cowley Road premises.

As well as the written warnings, in Oxford there were 40 hygiene improvement notices and seven voluntary closures.

Among these was Jericho deli Branca Food, which closed voluntarily in August last year after staff were accused of forging temperature records.

More recently, though not included in these figures, popular Chinese restaurant Sojo was subject to a temporary closure in August after a visit found rat droppings and urine in the kitchen and thick accumulations of grease and dirt.

Shuman Tse, who has run the Hythe Bridge Street restaurant for the past 15 years, told The Oxford Mail earlier this month staff vowed to 'do better'.

Inspectors also carried out one successful prosecution in court, for

food hygiene breaches and high risk scores were given to three businesses, meaning they need to be inspected again within six months.

This rating is different from the zero to five score that restaurants and takeaways display in their windows, as it is an indicator of when officials need to assess the business again.

A business which gets a high risk rating is 'highly likely' to have breached food hygiene regulations, according to the FSA.

However it could also be because of its trade, such as large scale manufacturers with lots of customers or businesses that carry out specialist procedures.

In total, there were more than 150,000 written warnings handed out in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2017-18, and 267 successful prosecutions. Scotland collects its data separately.

Nina Purcell, director of regulatory delivery at the FSA, said: "It’s encouraging that local authorities have made improvements in the percentage of interventions achieved and are continuing to target their activities at food businesses where food safety risks are the highest or where food fraud is more likely."

To report poor hygiene practices at businesses to the city council visit