Restaurant fined for hygiene breaches

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

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

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

Despite 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 Cattawade 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.

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

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“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.

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 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.

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.

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