David Elks: An interactive map of the Food Standards Agency's hygiene inspection reports in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire
THIS week I've completed my first real piece of data journalism which readers may find useful.
I've grabbed more than 6,000 food hygiene inspection reports provided by the Food Standards Agency in Staffordshire since 2007 to create a visual map and searchable database.
Readers will be able to go to www.thisisstaffordshire.co. uk and find a map showing the location of all the inspections, along with the name of the business and the five-star rating it received for hygiene.
There is also a database which will allow users to search for all reports in a particular town or postcode.
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The idea was sparked by one of my colleagues in Plymouth to visualise a story about food hygiene reports. Having worked out where to get the data from, I decided to replicate the task for Staffordshire.
You can filter the map to show the number of premises at each of the ranking levels, with zero being the worst and five being the best.
With the click of a button you can see the location of 19 premises – including six in Stoke-on-Trent which have been given a woeful zero-star rating – right through to the 3,198 which have been given top marks.
There are some interesting facts when you compare ratings among the various local authorities.
The first is that the lowest average food hygiene ratings are found in Stoke-on-Trent, while the highest average is found in the Staffordshire Moorlands (I should stress that the variance is so small as not to be significant, though).
That said, the city council's officers have also carried out almost as many inspections – 1,731 – as the next three largest authorities combined.
The second is the number of food hygiene inspections has exploded since reports were first compiled online in 2007.
In the first full year of 2008, there were just 189 reports compiled. It has scaled dramatically each year so that there were almost 2,700 reports published last year.
This might seem surprising, given the cuts that local authorities have had to go through in recent years. But research from the Consumers Association shows almost everyone feels entitled to know how their local restaurant, takeaway – as well as schools, hospitals and supermarkets – rank for hygiene when serving and preparing food.
Of course, as with all data, there are some caveats.
The first is that the data I collected last week provides only a snapshot of how organisations across the county ranked on hygiene.
It will not update as new inspections are made – unlike the website www.ratemyplace.org, which publishes up-to-date reports as they come in.
The upshot is that while the data from the Food Standards Agency shows there are around 302 zero and one-star premises, some records will be for companies that have shut down, while other firms will have been spurred to improve. Just because there hasn't been an inspection since doesn't mean that the venue isn't now a five-star premises.
Similarly, just because somewhere gets five stars on its report, it doesn't mean that it can't vary substantially. But hopefully, these limitations should not detract from the value of presenting Government open data in a way which readers can use. Please let me know what you think.
WE'RE apparently at the peak of the summer, although you'd probably not know it.
So when the sun does shine there is a great chance to record some of the events that go on around the county.
Charlie Phair, a reader of The Sentinel and writer, has used the website www.thisisstaffordshire.co. uk to capture the sights and sounds of the Staffordshire Motorbike Show 2012 at the Britannia.
He wrote a first-person account of the day, created a gallery with dozens of pictures as well as capturing the antics of daredevil stunt rider Steve Colley. If you're organising an event, use www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk to promote it.
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