A CHINESE takeaway in Leeds Road, Bradford, was found in “filthy” conditions, with mouse droppings on the floor and shelves and black mould on food containers.
Environmental Health officers from Bradford Council visited Chopsticks Halal Chinese in October, and found a long list of problems, including prawns defrosting in the sink, uncovered food near mouse droppings and cooked food being stored next to uncooked chicken.
They also saw the chef starting work before washing his hands.
The incidents led to Bradford Council charging the business owner, Mohammed Yaqoob, with 14 counts of failing to comply with EU food hygiene laws.
He pleaded guilty to all 14 charges at Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court yesterday, when the court was told he felt he had let himself and his family down.
Magistrates were told that the business has since been transformed, and that the charges were a “wake-up call” for Yaqoob, 42, of Wensleydale Road.
l run-off liquid from the thawing process was not adequately drained and the washbasin contained a box of prawns that were defrosting
l the hand washbasins were filthy
l there was rodent infestation and there was a large amount of rodent droppings under the kitchen sink, on the kitchen floor, on the window sill and food containers
l the chef failed to wash his hands before handling food
l cooked chicken wings were open and not covered and stored next to raw chicken
l there were two plastic tubs of sauces that were contaminated with black mould and a tray of uncovered prawn toast being stored in a cardboard box.
Aneeka Sarwar, prosecuting, told the court that Council officers visited the business on October 4 2018 as part of a programme of inspections of local food premises.
When they arrived they found “raw prawns defrosting in the sink” and mouse droppings on the floor.
She added: “The chef came into the premises, went upstairs and came down having changed clothes. He then began to handle food that was being prepared for food service without washing his hands.
“There was significant evidence to show a mouse infestation.
“There were jars of sauces without lids, open to contamination from any mice.
“There were plastic tubs that had been contaminated by black mould in their rim.
“When staff were asked why disinfectant should be used they were unable to give an answer that satisfied officers.”
A non-working fridge used to store food such as custard powder was “contaminated with mould”.
Officers deemed the business an immediate risk to public health and the business was closed. They returned on October 17 and were convinced there was no longer a mouse infestation. The business was allowed to re-open.
In mitigation, Faryal Akhtar said: “He has accepted these offences from the outset.
“He hasn’t taken this lightly. He hadn’t appreciated how difficult it is to run a business. He was too reliant on senior employees.
“At no time has he tried to shift the blame on any other person.
“In a way he is relieved it has come to this - it was a real wake-up call for him. He has since taken full control of the business and hasn’t looked back. Major improvements have been made - it seems like a completely different place now.
“He accepts action should have been taken much sooner.
“A lot of things in the business were controlled by a senior employee who has 18 years’ experience running businesses like this.”
She said his involvement in the business dropped off at the time of the inspection, to the point where he was only visiting once or twice a week. When he started the businesses the takeaway industry was “completely new” to him. His family had supported him in setting up Chopsticks.
She added: “He has let himself down and let his family down. It will be difficult for him, but he won’t give up.”
Yaqoob was handed a £350 fine and ordered to pay £1,615 costs. Along with a victim surcharge, he will have to pay a total of £2,000.
Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for healthy people and places, said: “Making sure the district’s restaurants and takeaways are safe and have the hygiene standards we would expect is vitally important to Bradford Council.
“Will not hesitate to prosecute anyone who puts our residents, or visitors to the area, at risk for whatever reason.”