Every week Waltham Forest Council’s food safety team work hard to keep shoppers and diners protected against food business owners who do not meet their legal requirements to ensure the safety of their customers.
Throughout August, it has achieved several successful enforcement actions that send a clear message: businesses serving food or ingredients must store produce safely, must keep their premises hygienic and pest-free, and must make sure cooking utensils are properly cleaned.
On Thursday 8 August the Oasis Minimart, 358 High Road, Leyton, was closed after inspectors found a mouse infestation in the premises as well as a large amount of out-of-date food. In a unique twist, the owner had attempted to craft a homemade bait-box and created what inspectors described as a “mouse hotel” using several cardboard boxes. The mice had certainly made themselves at home as packets of gnawed food were also found in the store. Inspectors served a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice closing the retailer, and Thames Magistrates’ Court confirmed the closure and granted a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order (HEPO). Costs of £956.00 were awarded to the council. The store has since made the improvements required to be allowed to reopen.
The next week, on Thursday 15 August, inspectors visited Wood & Flames, a pizza takeaway at 371 High Road, Leyton, where large numbers of cockroaches were found in the filthy kitchen with a kitchen drain blocked by rotten food debris. They closed the restaurant and applied for a HEPO, which was granted at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court, with costs of £806.00 awarded to the council. Wood & Flames’ operators have since been allowed to reopen after improving the conditions at the restaurant.
Mice and cockroaches were found to be infesting the kitchen of Leyton-based BBQ Xpress, 826 High Road, when the food safety team carried out a visit on Tuesday 20 August. Sacks of rice in the storeroom had been gnawed by the rodents, and some were even covered in droppings. As inspectors lifted a sack to look closer, a live mouse ran out from behind. There were also cockroaches present in the kitchen and the toilet. Highbury Magistrates’ Court confirmed the closure and granted a HEPO on Wednesday 28 August, with costs of £864.00 being awarded to the council against BBQ Express Ltd. and its director Mukhtar Ahmed.
Also closed in August was fast food outlet Kebabish Original, 755 High Street, Leytonstone after inspectors discovered an active mouse infestation as well as poor hygiene and ineffective management control. Thames Magistrates’ granted a HEPO on 28 August and awarded costs of £806.00 to the council.
Meanwhile, on Thursday 22 August the food business operator of High Road Kebabish (a separate company to Kebabish Original), Mr Abrhar Khan, was fined £800.00 plus costs of £3,183.17 and a victim surcharge of £80 due to a history of failure to comply with improvement notices and an ongoing inability to improve hygiene standards. Mr Khan was the director of E10 High Road Kebabish Ltd., since dissolved, when, in November 2018, food safety inspectors awarded a Food Hygiene Rating of Zero – Urgent Improvement Necessary, after finding poor standards of cleanliness throughout the premises. Follow up visits in January and March 2019 found that the hygiene practices and cleaning standards were still very low, and so the decision to prosecute was made due the poor history of compliance.
Cllr Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “There can be no excuses for letting a commercial kitchen or food business get so dirty, so pest-infested, or so unhygienic that the health of customers - local residents and visitors to Waltham Forest - is put at risk. You have a responsibility to the people you serve – and if you are not prepared to make the effort to meet the basic common sense hygiene requirements and show such disregard for the health and well-being of our residents and visitors and such contempt for the law, we will close you down and hit you where it hurts: in the wallet.
“Residents and visitors to Waltham Forest deserve to be able to trust in and enjoy eating out in Waltham Forest without fearing for their health due to the consequences of these irresponsible and fundamentally dangerous individuals and their simply disgusting business practises. If only the law would allow local councils to ban them from running food businesses - then we would utilise such a power.”
If you’re eating out in the UK, or even just getting a takeaway for a night in front of the TV, you can use the Food Standard Agency’s online tool to see the hygiene ratings for any food business before you order. It only takes a minute to check – but could save you from an unpleasant dining experience.
If you suspect a food business is not meeting its hygiene obligations, is not labelling food products properly, or is committing a food crime, you can use the Food Standard Agency’s website to report it for investigation.
The Waltham Forest Servicestore can put business owners and residents in contact with trusted local tradespeople, including pest controllers who will be able to professionally deal with pests including mice and cockroaches at competitive rates.