SWINDON is among the safest places to eat out in the country, according to new data.

The research analysed the food hygiene ratings of more than 500,000 restaurants and takeaways across 50 British towns and cities then ranked them all from cleanest to unhealthiest – and Swindon placed in the top 10.

Data from Virtual College suggests 146 UK local authorities have an average food hygiene rating which is lower than 4.65 out of five.

Swindon’s is 4.75, placing it equal with Warrington and just below Oxford’s average score of 4.76.

Ipswich topped the table with an average score or 4.92, followed by Gloucester (4.84), and Nottingham, Exeter and Colchester (all 4.8)

According to a study by food management company Checkit, two thirds of respondents cited bad food hygiene as a reason for not returning to a restaurant - compared to only 16 per cent saying bad service would put them off.

Waltham Forest in London has the lowest average rating in the UK with an average score of 3.95, closely followed by other London authorities Newham, Ealing, Lambeth and Enfield.

Outside of London, Birmingham has the lowest average hygiene rating followed by Walsall, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Blaenau Gwent. 

The most food-hygienic region in the UK is Northern Ireland with an average score of 4.80, followed by the East Midlands, North East England and South West England with an average score of 4.73. The lowest-ranked region is London, with 4.40.

Virtual College’s chief learning officer Sarah Baker said: Eating out really is one of life's pleasures, whether it be catching up with friends, bonding with family, or trying new cuisine. Something that people often overlook though, when choosing a restaurant is its food hygiene rating.

“At the end of the day, undercooked food and unclean equipment can both make you really ill, so it's something that anyone dining out should be aware of.

“Unfortunately, it's not mandatory to display food hygiene ratings in England or Scotland so it's always a good idea to check on the Food Standards Agency before you go.

"And as consumers become savvier on this, it's important for any businesses working with food to establish guidelines and keep these up to date.

“Not only will they be ensuring the safety of consumers, but organisations with a good reputation in food hygiene are more likely to stand apart from their competitors who do not offer the same standards."