FORTY-TWO businesses – from restaurants and takeaways to discount stores and halal butchers – were rated as ZERO for hygiene when they were inspected last year.
Each food outlet was told to make urgent improvements after being given the lowest possible rating in 2014.
However, the council's most senior environmental health inspector maintains Croydon's eateries have not become less healthy, despite the number scoring zero out of five rising from 27 in 2013.
In total 152 businesses scored zero, one or two – judged by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to be a fail – in 2014, up from 105 during the previous 12 months.
This week, the Advertiser contacted outlets given the lowest grade, including eight which got zero in both 2013 and 2014.
A business can fail an inspection even if it has a clean kitchen, if inspectors do not have confidence in the management to adhere to hygiene standards, including correctly completed paperwork.
Some of the businesses that agreed to speak to us said they were under new management and hoped for an improved score when next inspected. Mr Kebabish, in London Road, West Croydon, is a repeat offender, receiving zero in April 2013, and again a year later.
Humail, the manager's son, said the kebab shop is being run by new owners who hope to get a three or four-star rating when environmental health officers return.
"The old owner left the electrical wiring in the kitchen, main hall, and where customers sit and eat hanging out," he explained. "The kitchen was dirty and tiles were falling apart on the counter.
"It was very slippy on the steps going down into the basements and one of the workers had fallen down them. We have repaired everything and put mats on the steps."
Chihetos, in Selsdon Road, South Croydon, also has new owners since being rated "bad" structurally and "poor" in food hygiene and safety last March.
Moaz, the manager, said: "The previous owner told me the rating was four but then I found out it was zero. There were rats and no working freezers.
"A lot has changed since then. We are cleaning, everything is working properly and we have temperature charts. I've asked for a reinspection so we are just waiting now."
Mohamed Faraz who works at South Norwood Halal Butcher, in High Street, blames their zero rating on bad timing.
"The inspector came on a Friday which was a busy day and we were starting to get Christmas orders ready so our back room was full of goods from a delivery. It was the wrong time for us," Mr Faraz said.
"Also, certain things weren't clean that should have been. We needed to separate the coriander away from the meat produce."
Delight Express, in Thornton Road, Thornton Heath, received a zero rating in February last year and is awaiting another inspection.
"We didn't deserve zero," said manager Emrah. "Last year we got three stars and nothing much has changed, so it's unacceptable. We have done some cleaning, of course, and we will take other action in the near future if it's necessary."
During spot-checks, food safety officers assess businesses in three areas: hygiene and safety, structural compliance and confidence in management. Outlets are then given ratings on a scale of zero to five, with zero meaning "urgent" improvements are required.
Offenders can be shut temporarily while improvements are carried out and, in the worst cases, can be prosecuted. The onus is on the businesses to ask to be re-inspected if they think progress has been made.
Perfect Fried Chicken, in Whitehorse Road, received a zero rating last April.
Manager Gow Ramanathan said the shop was in bad condition when he took over. "I didn't know much about food hygiene but my dad knew about what standards I should aim for," he said.
"There were problems with the general hygiene, how we handled the food and the tiles were in bad condition.
"The tenant living upstairs had issues with the landlord and he turned on the tap and left it running to annoy him. It would leak through and cause damp on the ceiling."
He added: "I am more confident with the kitchen and if anyone came to visit I would be 80 to 90 per cent sure we'd do well."
Karachi Halal Meat and Grocers, in Thornton Heath, was given the lowest possible rating for the second year in a row. The manager said they have made improvements since their May inspection. "They asked us to make improvements like getting hot water and I'm about 85 per cent of the way there. through them I hope we should have a better rating now," he said.
Spice Land, in London Road, had to make basic improvements after receiving a zero rating. Vasdaran, the assistant manager, said: "We are waiting for a reinspection after recording temperatures, cleaning the kitchen and painting."
A deep clean of the kitchen and painting of walls was needed at The Coriander Takeaway, in Croham Road, said the manager.
A spokeswoman for Fiveways Fish Bar, Waddon, also rated zero, told the Advertiser: "We hadn't filled out the food hygiene booklet that we were supposed to. We have begun using it and the kitchen needed general cleaning so we now hope for a higher rating."