Kitchen nightmare lands West Midlands caterer with a £12,000 fine

NAJAF, IRAQ - AUGUST 21:  Dirty cooking pots sit inside of an old Madrasa which has been transformed into a Mahdi army kitchen August 21, 2004 in Najaf, Iraq. The militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are reportedly still in control of the Imam Ali shrine, despite the Iraqi government's efforts to negotiate the handover of the holy Shiite shrine.  (Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/Getty Images)

Scores of rats and poor food hygiene at a West Midlands food catering company have landed it with penalties of more than £12,000 following environmental health inspections.

Sandwell Council environmental health officers uncovered widespread rat activity as well as poor structural and cleanliness standards and cross contamination risks during a routine hygiene inspection at the firm.

There was also a lack of a waste contract, food handlers were not wearing protective clothing and there was not a suitable disinfectant on site to clean food contact surfaces and equipment. Additionally there were holes in the ceiling and an open drain to the floor in the main kitchen.

The company prepared food in its kitchen at the West Bromwich premises and transported it to events to be served. Inspectors encountered dirty floor surfaces and evidence of grease with dirt adhered to outer surfaces of equipment, such as cookers.

The conditions found at the time of the visit, on 8 October 2015, posed an imminent risk of injury to health and the premises was closed voluntarily.

Sandwell Council officers revisited the premises the next day, when food was voluntarily surrendered for destruction due to the rat infestation. There were more visits during the next few days, which revealed more rats had been caught.

The premises were eventually allowed to re-open on 14 October 2015 as the rat activity had been suitably addressed, cleaning had been undertaken as well as a suitable disinfectant obtained. Therefore the risk of injury to health was considered removed.

The business now trades under the name of Midlands Catering and Services Limited from a new address in King Street, Smethwick. It has been, and is now, working with Sandwell Council to improve its standards of food hygiene management.

It achieved a score of 4 (Good) under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in September 2016.

The council brought eight food safety and hygiene charges against the director of Muslim Catering Limited, Shabir Ahmed. He accepted that he had acted negligently in October 2015 and entered guilty pleas to all charges last month.

The same charges were brought against the limited company, and admitted, at the hearing at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court.

Ahmed was fined £780 in total and £536.36 costs together with a £48 victim’s surcharge, equating to a total of £1,364.36.

Midlands Catering and Services Limited, then called Muslim Catering Limited, was fined £6,000 in total with the remaining overall costs of £4,500 and a victim’s surcharge of £170.

Councillor Preet Gill, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for public health and protection, said: “Our environmental health officers work with businesses to achieve safe food hygiene practices without risks to the public. However, the total financial penalty of £12,034.36 shows the council and the courts take severe shortcomings in this area, which are ultimately the responsibility of the food business, very, very seriously.”

IMAGE: File picture

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