MORE than 40% of Bundaberg's licensed food businesses have scored poorly in the council's Eat Safe program, with close to 200 premises receiving a zero or two star rating.
The rating system was introduced on July 1, following an audit process that gave these businesses a food safety rating from zero to five
Any ratings above a three mean these food outlets are either good, very good or excellent performers, while two stars deem them to be poor performers with a low level of compliance with the Food Act.
Further to that, any licensed food business that scores a zero is deemed to be a non-compliant performer with a "general failure" to comply with the act, with major effort required to rectify issues.
But despite all premises receiving a rating, only those that opt into the program with three or more stars can display their rating.
The council has confirmed only 58% of the licensed food businesses hold three stars or above.
"Due to privacy laws and the Eat Safe program policy, council does not have the permission to advise the community on which businesses receive a zero or two star rating," the council's Health and Regulatory Services spokesman Wayne Honor said.
"Despite this the program is incentive-based and allows the community to question those businesses who choose not to display their star rating."
Information obtained from the council by the NewsMail shows that 191 premises had a star rating of zero and two stars when the council carried out unofficial Eat Safe inspections during the 2013-14 financial year.
"The official Eat Safe inspections will be undertaken throughout 2014-15 and it is expected that many of these premises will be achieving three stars and above within the next 12 months," Cr Honor said.
Cr Honor said while no fines had been issued since the launch of Eat Safe, the council had issued eight fines under the Food Act in the 2013-14 year.
"Council's enforcement program operates separately from the Eat Safe program to deal with major offences and consistent minor breaches to the Food Act, and it has not altered in any way with the introduction of this program," Cr Honor said.
"While it's likely many zero or two star rated businesses will receive some type of enforcement action, the rating itself does not translate into a specific action that council will be taking on their business."
Cr Honor said 38 food businesses received a five-star rating but only 23 had agreed to formally participate in the program and display their star rating.