Reading's restaurant hygiene 'unsatisfactory' in tests
A food hygiene expert from Reading Council says she is "surprised" many samples taken from the town's restaurants showed evidence of bacteria.
In an inspection of 23 premises tested by Reading Council, 21 had "unsatisfactory" levels of bacteria.
In one restaurant traces of E. coli were also found.
A Reading University expert said levels of bacteria would probably be "very similar" to a household kitchen.
However, Professor Simon Andrews said the findings were still of concern.
"The level of processing is much higher in a restaurant and the number of people involved is much greater, so the potential for infection is much higher," he said.
Reading Borough Council's food safety team decided to carry out random tests of restaurants over a year.
Officers tested items which could have been in contact with food or hands, and checked equipment and surfaces had been cleaned properly.
"We were quite surprised that so many samples came back as unsatisfactory," said food law manager Lisa Richards.
"The results are not what we would like, but we are working with the businesses to improve them."
Of the 36 'unsatisfactory' samples, 21 were samples taken from premises rated 0 or 1 stars on Reading Borough Council's Scores on the Doors food hygiene ratings.
Most of the bacteria found would be unlikely to cause food poisoning in a healthy person, but in one restaurant E. coli was found.
A couple had the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which can be spread by not washing hands properly.
"The E. coli found is not as serious as the German version, but in sufficient quantities could cause a minor illness," said Ms Richards.
Staphylococcus aureus can also cause projectile vomiting if found in sufficient quantities.
According to the food safety inspectors, while the surfaces or hands might look visually clean, they can still be heavily contaminated with bacteria likely to cause food poisoning.
All businesses with unsatisfactory samples have been advised of their results and given advice on how to improve.
Further checks have been made of these businesses and if they do not improve further enforcement action will be taken, the council said.