Food hygiene officers sent to investigate a complaint alleging an illegal gas installation at a Northwich restaurant discovered a catalogue of kitchen failures including no hot water supply to the premises, poor cleaning and structural standards, risks of cross contamination and lack of food safety management control.
Lutfur Rahman and Abdul Helim, owners of Mumtaaz Indian restaurant in Weaverham, were sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences at Chester Magistrates’ Court last week. Both received six months imprisonment suspended for two years, 200 hours community service unpaid work and were ordered to pay £500 costs.
They have also been issued with an indefinite Hygiene Prohibition Order banning them from being involved in the management of any food business across the UK.
A year prior to the gas installation investigation in May 2019, regulatory services officers visited Mumtaaz to undertake a routine food hygiene inspection and found mouldy and rancid, unfit food, inadequate hand washing facilities, poor standards of cleanliness throughout the premises together with poor structural conditions.
A significant build of dirt and food debris was found throughout the food handling and storage areas, floor surfaces were found to be in a poor condition, there was no hot water available at the wash hand basin and there was an evident lack of food safety management control in the business.
Unfit food was voluntarily surrendered and destroyed at the time of visit and the premises were voluntarily closed with immediate effect until the premises had undergone a deep clean and adequate refrigeration equipment could be provided for the safe storage of food.
The premises re-opened two days later when officers were satisfied that there was no longer an imminent risk to public health. Further visits were made by officers in order to monitor standards and they were found to meet minimum requirements.
A further programmed inspection was carried out in December 2018.
Officers then found an outside breezeblock shed being used to store food was very heavily contaminated with mouse droppings on the food as well as throughout the structure of the shed.
The main premises remained in poor structural condition and cleaning and hygiene standards were only marginally better than during the visit six months earlier. Under the supervision of the officers all contaminated dry goods were destroyed on site.
The outside building was voluntarily closed and it was agreed that it would not be used until it was cleared of pests and decontaminated. Officers revisited the premises and found minimum standards of food hygiene and safety to be in place.
But a return to the premises in May 2019 revealed that the restaurant had no hot water supply and demonstrated a lack of food safety management control.
Judge HHJ Teague said that the defendants showed a total disregard to food safety, the business was in a truly appalling state of affairs and the place was absolutely filthy. He found it difficult to apportion blame due to the inconsistent accounts given by both defendants.
The council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, highways and strategic transport, councillor Karen Shore said: “Officers had witnessed extremely poor conditions that posed a significant risk to the public and the indefinite ban imposed on the defendants sends a clear and strong message that the courts will treat such situations seriously.”
Mumtaaz restaurant is now under new management and has signed up to the Council’s GET5 scheme.