A COWLEY Road bakery and cafe with rave reviews has been criticised by hygiene inspectors for poor staff knowledge, pizza topping temperatures and the risk to customers of making dough on plywood.

Za’atar Bake was visited by Oxford City Council’s health team on January 7, who gave the business a two-star rating after uncovering a range of issues with how food was being prepared and cleanliness.

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There was particular concern over how dough was being made, with a report stating: “Boards of plywood, which showed signs of defect, were used to prepare dough.

“This material is unsuitable for use in a food preparation area as it is not easy to clean and in addition pieces of material which break off may cause physical contamination of food.”

Cleanliness was another issue raised at the cafe and bakery, which specialises in food from the Levant region of Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Syria.

‘Numerous hand contact surfaces’ were found to be dirty, including light switches, door handles and the exterior of food containers. The bakery was told to ‘thoroughly wash’ and ‘disinfect’ the areas mentioned.

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There was also criticism of the popular East Oxford bakery’s pizza making.

Inspectors wrote: “Chef working in the pizza preparation area wore plastic disposable gloves. Attention to changing the gloves or washing hands was lacking.”

The wash hand basin in the pizza preparation area was also found to be blocked by a trolley, and the surface temperature of pizza toppings was monitored at over 10 C despite 0-8C being required.

Shelf life given to pre-cooked food, in particular a chicken dish and lamb koftas, was judged to be poor with both found to have been made longer ago than the three day limit recommended.

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Staff training was similarly criticised, with inspectors saying in the report employees demonstrated ‘poor knowledge’ of stock rotation, temperature control and cleaning. Added to this only ‘limited’ allergen information was available and the business was ‘not aware’ of all 14 allergens.

Despite the low rating Za’atar Bake, which describes itself as a 'speciality bakery in the heart of Oxford city' is the 51st best rated restaurant in the city on review website Trip Advisor.

One satisfied customer wrote: “I cannot recommend this place too highly." Another said: “Have practically inhaled everything I’ve eaten in here.”

Owner Mahmoud Al Hadad was contacted for comment but did not respond.