Salmonella case goes to crown court

A RESTAURANT owner who admitted food served at his premises left at least 28 customers with salmonella food poisoning will be sentenced at crown court.

A RESTAURANT owner who admitted food served at his premises left at least 28 customers with salmonella food poisoning will be sentenced at crown court.

Magistrates in Ipswich yesterdaycommitted Hung Tat Chung's case to crown court after deciding they did not have enough powers to deal with it themselves.

Chung, who runs The Peach Bower Chinese restaurant in Wickham Market, has pleaded guilty to selling food unfit for human consumption.

He has also admitted failing to ensure his premises were kept clean, failing to ensure equipment was clean and failing to undertake adequate and appropriate hazard analysis.

The court heard that egg fried rice containing salmonella bacteria was served to take away and restaurant customers at his restaurant on July 26 last year.

Ian De Prez, prosecuting, said environmental health officers contacted Suffolk Coastal District Council with information about a possible food poisoning outbreak at Chung's restaurant.

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Mr De Prez said at that stage, five people who had eaten at The Peach Bower restaurant had been confirmed as becoming ill with salmonella food poisoning.

By August 5, the number of confirmed cases had risen to 28 and a total of 38 people believed they had been ill. A two-year-old girl and a 26-year-old man needed hospital treatment, he added.

The court heard that a temporary chef had been working that night. He told investigators he would usually begin cooking the egg fried rice between 3pm and 4pm and would make the tray last until between 8pm and 9pm, thereafter making more rice on request.

Mr De Prez said: "The egg mixture shouldn't have been left out at room temperature for more than three hours at the most. Food professionals place a danger zone of between 5C and 63C where in the preparation of food, like egg, bacteria can grow.

"The view of the investigators is it was not sensible to cook so much in advance and it shouldn't have been left un-refrigerated.

"The cooking process for the egg fried rice was unsatisfactory and led to this outbreak. In this case, it appeared to the investigators this outbreak was avoidable and was due to negligent actions."

Mr De Prez told the court that during inspection of the premises, investigators found refrigerator doors "greasy to touch", black mould in the refrigerator door seals, and a chopping board stained red with too many scores to be properly cleaned.

Kevin McCarthy, mitigating, said his client was extremely sorry for the distress he had caused the consumers of this product.

"This incident took place against a background of 16 years of experience in this type of business, ten of which he has been running his own restaurant. There have been no problems between my client and the local authority," he said.

Mr McCarthy said Chung's business had decreased by 50% since the outbreak and he had to reduce his staff from six to four.

Magistrates' told Chung the offences were "so serious" he would be sentenced at the crown court at a date to be arranged.

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