Steep fine for owner of dirty restaurant

A CHINESE restaurant owner has been forced to part with his life savings after selling potentially poisonous food to customers.The Szechuan Inn was deemed so unhygienic by inspectors that rats, insects and birds were likely to contaminate food.

Helen Skene

A CHINESE restaurant owner has been forced to part with his life savings after selling potentially poisonous food to customers.

The Szechuan Inn was deemed so unhygienic by inspectors that rats, insects and birds were likely to contaminate food.

Despite its manager receiving repeated warnings about poor hygiene, a previous conviction and civil actions after an outbreak of salmonella, Shek Keung Kwok still failed to reach the required food hygiene standards.

He told South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court the £16,000 he was ordered to pay in fines and costs were his life savings which he had hoped to use to put his children through university and to pay his mortgage.

Caroline Watling, prosecuting for Babergh District Council, said Kwok, who runs the Catterwade Street restaurant and takeaway in Brantham, used an outside courtyard area which was open to rats, insects and birds to store equipment and to prepare food.

Most Read

Mrs Watling said: “This outside area was not compliant with regulations.

“It was not adequately designed for cleaning and disinfecting to avoid or minimise airborne contamination to protect against the accumulation of dirt and promote good food hygiene practices, in particular pest control.”

She said the food premises in general were not kept clean including floors and work services and neither was the equipment used for preparing food.

She added that Kwok failed to produce a written food safety procedure despite being offered help and advice to do so.

Kwok, who pleaded guilty through an interpreter, admitted failing to prepare a documented food safety management system, to failing to keep his premises and equipment clean and to using the rear yard as a food preparation area.

Mrs Watling said: “Overall the inspector said the standards of all cleaning were so poor that the risk of contamination and infestation was high.

“Even though pest control measures were in place the amount of food debris on the floor meant that rodent pests would find an ample supply of food and not be attracted to the poison bait boxes.”

She said that some cleaning had been carried out when the inspectors called last September but by January of this year the hygiene standards still fell short.

There were insufficient hand washing facilities or soap, accumulations of grease and dirt and a cigarette butt on the floor. The court heard that since being prosecuted Kwok had erected a shed in the back yard to screen the preparation area.

Mrs Watling added that in 2002 there was a salmonella outbreak due to poorly cooked eggs and although civil actions against Kwok were successful no criminal prosecutions were brought.

In 2004 Kwok was fined £700 for selling food which was unfit for human consumption.

Kwok's solicitor Diana Infanti said he had been running restaurants in the UK since moving here from Hong Kong 30 years ago.

She said he and his wife worked 16 hour days seven days a week with the help of their two children and two part-time staff but had failed to meet requirements because they were short staffed and had little time left for cleaning.

She added that the 70-seater restaurant and takeaway business had been successful and the court heard that Kwok was active in the community and regularly donated to charity.

Deputy district judge Sandib Kainth heard that Kwok had £20,000 in savings.

In fining the restaurant owner, he said: “I find the following aggravating features in your case. You have a history of unhygienic premises, you have a previous conviction and I'm told that six months after the initial inspection the authorities still had concern about hygiene.

“One would have thought you would have learned your lesson back in 2002.”

Kwok was fined £4,000 for each of the three offences, told to pay prosecution costs of £4,405 and a £15 victim surcharge.

He was given 14 days to pay the £16,420 or face prison.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter