Cat café directors fined for breaching food safety and hygiene regulations

Gemma Whitehouse (left) and Lauren Moyes opening the Catastrophe Cat Cafe in Needham Market Picture

Gemma Whitehouse (left) and Lauren Moyes opening the Catastrophe Cat Cafe in Needham Market Picture: ANDY ABBOTT - Credit: Archant

Two Suffolk women have been fined for breaching food safety regulations while in charge of a lottery funded café where cats roamed among customers.

Gemma Whitehouse and Lauren Moyes admitted contravening food safety and hygiene regulations at the Catastrophe Cat Café in Needham Market earlier this year.

Appearing before magistrates in Ipswich on Tuesday, the pair were fined a total of £1,200 and ordered to pay £500 towards prosecution by Mid Suffolk District Council.

Whitehouse, 30, of Woolpit, and Moyes, 26, of Stowmarket, breached two regulations relating to hazard controls and food supply.

Upon opening as a social enterprise last August, the cat café was granted an overall food hygiene rating of four, indicating standards were generally good.

Following customer complaints, a food and safety officer visited to find a hand-washing sink being used to clean plates and that hygiene trained staff were absent.

Four more complaints and a cancelled meeting followed, before an unannounced inspection found evidence of sandwiches made in the kitchen, rather than bought from a supplier, as the ‘low-risk’ food safety system demanded.

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As a result, the hygiene rating was dropped to one, indicating major improvement necessary.

Further advice was followed by another visit, which found a hygiene trained volunteer on site, but sandwiches and out-of-date food in the fridge, and a sign still boasting a hygiene rating of four.

Details of all suppliers were requested but only the names of two firms were provided – both of which reported to have stopped supplying the café.

Simon Smith,prosecuting, said a graduated approach had been taken to enforcement but that insufficient attention was paid.

Stuart Cooper, representing Whitehouse and Moyes, said the café opened as a pop-up shop in shared premises, through a lottery grant and crowd-funding, with the intention of temporarily housing rescued cats to be adopted.

Both balanced jobs and were unprepared for the volume of customers, added Mr Cooper, who said sandwiches were occasionally made on site to meet demand, but that most were bought from Tesco and the Co-op which better record-keeping would have proven.

He said the café became the subject of a “hate campaign”, which sparked most of the complaints, two break-ins and a prosecution for harassment.

The café faces the same two charges and two further charges, to be heard at a later date following formal confirmation of the company being dissolved.

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