SOUTH Norwood is the third worst place in Britain for food hygiene, according to Which? magazine.
The watchdog found that the SE25 postcode has an average rating of 2.65 out of 5 – below the "satisfactory" rating of 3.
A number of cafes and takeaways in the area bring the average rating down with ratings of 0 or 1, although there are restaurants such as Mantanah Thai Restaurant, in Portland Road, which have the top rating of 5.
The revelation comes after a takeaway owner received a fine of £21,614 for a catalogue of food hygiene offences.
Leroy Houslin, the owner of Yard Style Kitchen, also in Portland Road, was given the hefty fine for offences ranging from lighting his shop with candles to having a fridge dirtied by congealed raw meat.
Staff at the takeaway also refused entry to Croydon Council food safety officers when they visited for inspection.
Three further visits were made by officers from May to October, but no attempts at improvement were seen.
However, Croydon Council said the rating systems may just be punishing businesses which do not sort out their paperwork.
A council spokesman said: "We have also found many smaller businesses that are well run, but have not prepared proper written systems. This prevents them scoring more than one on the hygiene rating system, regardless of how good they are.
"In these cases we visit them more frequently and we try to spend the time advising owners on how to comply."
Nevertheless, the council said it will clamp down on businesses with filthy premises.
The spokesman added: "What it's important to emphasise is that while those premises with low scores do have things that they should improve they are not considered to be an immediate health risk. If the council does find such risks we always take immediate steps to close a business down until problems have been remedied."
However, there seems to be confusion over what is required of businesses.
Ayham Kurt, the owner of Portland Café, which currently has a hygiene rating of 3, said he did not know what rating his business had, adding: "You never know when the inspectors will come and they haven't been in three years but you have to keep on your toes.
"It requires a lot of everyday sort of jobs but we do it and we never have any complaints."
Liz Ismail, of People for Portland Road, defended the area's cuisine.
She said: "There are lots of good places to eat and I think it would be unfair to tar the good ones with the same brush as the others."
But Ian Bone, an associate of the South Norwood Tourist Board, who said he normally eats in Wetherspoons, believes it is detracting from the area.
Mr Bone said: "We don't want people to come to South Norwood and have a bad time so we hope these businesses have a good look at their levels of hygiene.
"But it might be just as well that Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the toilet, is buried just round the corner in Beckenham."