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Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Former pub manager admits further food offences

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The former manager of a Stockton public house fell foul of food safety laws for the second time in a year.

At the time of the offences, Helen Smallwood, aged 57, from Stockton, was manager of the Rimswell Hotel in Fairfield, which is now under new management and has no connection with her.

Mrs Smallwood pleaded guilty at Teesside Magistrates today to seven food offences. Three of these related to the cleanliness of her food premises, two related to decomposing steak and fish in her kitchen and two more were for having food for sale after its use-by date.

The offences came to light when a Stockton Council food hygiene officer carried out a routine inspection of the Rimswell Hotel, where Smallwood is the manager and licensee, on 6 December 2010.

During the inspection, an unacceptable level of general hygiene was immediately apparent, with the premises generally in a very poor state of cleanliness. Foods were found beyond their use by dates, with some stinking and decomposing.

Conditions were so poor that the officer immediately called his manager to join him. They found large accumulations of grease, dirt and food debris throughout the food preparation area.

Food containers were damaged and broken and food was stored in dirty fridges, where an open container of cooked prawns was kept next to open raw meat. Fryers, the cooking range and grills, refrigerated storage units, the food preparation area, storage areas and surfaces were filthy, as were walls, floors, electrical switches and taps on the wash hand basin.

Packets of Tortelli funghi porcini and Italian wild mushroom tortelloni had use-by dates of 20/11 and 22/11 respectively. Sirloin steak and two cod fillets were smelling, decomposing and unfit for human consumption. Pork tenderloin, Marie Rose sauce and gravy made with meat stock were of poor quality or out of date and unsafe to consume.

In mitigation, Mrs Smallwood acknowledged the poor conditions at the time of the inspection saying they were in the process of getting it up to standard and arranging a company to do a deep clean. She said the out-of-date foods should not have been in the fridge and would not have been used. She had left the fish in the fridge to show the food handlers that they should have thrown it out the night before.

She had faced personal problems at the time of the offences and had since surrendered the lease of the pub.

Sentencing will take place on 7 February.

In November 2010, Mrs Smallwood received a 12-month community order and was ordered to pay £1,173.47 prosecution costs after admitting ten food hygiene offences discovered in March 2010.

Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, said: "Mrs Smallwood was clearly accepting substandard hygiene standards and practices, with scant regard to her patrons’ health.

"People have a right to enjoy their food in safety when they go out for a meal. Their safety is a priority and the Council will take action against food operators who flout the law.

"It is quite staggering that, just days after a previous prosecution for similar offences, this pub manager continued to operate in such a state and commit these serious offences.

"Stockton Council's Environmental Health Officers will not allow premises to continue serving food in an unhygienic way. We work constantly to inspect food premises and the results are shown as star ratings on the website".

Following the inspection, the out-of-date and unfit foods were voluntarily surrendered and cleaning immediately started. Environmental Health Officers remained on site until they were satisfied no imminent risk to health existed and made a further five visits during the following weeks.