Food hygiene offences have cost a food business operator almost £5,000 in fines and costs following a successful prosecution by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.
Abdul Ghafoor, 58, of Hall Drive in Acklam, Middlesbrough, food business operator of Tina’s Off Licence on Windlestone Road, Billingham, was fined £3,201 and ordered to pay £1,541.33 in costs plus a victim surcharge of £120 – a total of £4,862.33.
Mr Ghafoor pleaded guilty to nine offences under Section 19 of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 at Teesside Magistrates’ Court yesterday, 15 December.
The court heard that Environmental Health officers from the Council visited Tina’s Off Licence on 5 February 2015 to investigate reports of pest activity in the area.
Officers found the shop in a filthy state with mouse droppings throughout the premises on the floor and stock in the rear storerooms, under the serving counter, the shop shelves and next to boxes of open sweets.
There was food on sale that appeared heavily gnawed and the contents partially eaten, empty food packaging and half eaten food were found on the floor as well as some uneaten pest bait.
Officers also found food beyond its ‘use by’ date was still on sale.
The shop walls, floors and shelves were dirty, there was no hot water to the hand wash basin and an insufficient flow of cold water meant that effective hand washing was not possible. The front door and roller shutter were poorly fitted and the storeroom door was rotten with a large hole in it.
Mr Ghafoor voluntarily closed the premises for six days to clean the shop and ultimately employ a pest control contractor and set up a preventative pest control contract but Environmental Health officers found mouse droppings on the shop shelves and two gnawed packets of food during a further visit on 5 May 2015.
In mitigation, Mr Ghafoor said he was aware of rodent activity when he took over the business five years ago but thought it was now under control. Mr Ghafoor also said he was in hospital on 5 May 2015 but accepted that hygiene in the premises was poor.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Access, Communities and Community Safety, Councillor Steve Nelson, said: “Environmental Health officers work constantly to inspect food premises and we are always happy to offer advice and support to operators and owners.
"In this case, the food business operator volunteered to put things right but unfortunately the unacceptable level of hygiene and poor state of cleanliness was immediately apparent during our subsequent inspection of the premises in May.
“I hope this prosecution sends a clear message to food business operators - people have the right to expect high food hygiene standards in places where they go to eat and in shops that sell food, which is why we will always take action to protect the public against those who flout the law.”
Anyone with concerns about a food business can contact the Council on 01642 526569 or check hygiene ratings on the Food Standards Agency website http://ratings.food.gov.uk/