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Lowestoft restaurant blasted by judge

PUBLISHED: 11:00 14 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:29 05 July 2010

A JUDGE has strongly condemned the bosses of an Indian restaurant after being told how food was prepared in squalid and rat-infested conditions, despite repeated warnings from environmental health officers.

A JUDGE has strongly condemned the bosses of an Indian restaurant after being told how food was prepared in squalid and rat-infested conditions, despite repeated warnings from environmental health officers.

Judge David Goodin branded the conditions at the Royal Bengal restaurant, in High Street, Lowestoft, as "stomach-churning" and "terrifying" as he passed sentence on two brothers for multiple food hygiene offences.

Yesterday's hearing at Ipswich Crown Court was told the restaurant had now closed down after business fell away following earlier reports about the offences.

Environmental health officers from Waveney District Council launched an investigation in January 2008 and found filthy conditions throughout the kitchen areas, evidence of rat-infestations and poor standards of hygiene from staff.

On one occasion, investigators saw a chef handle raw chicken and then touch cooked food without washing his hands, while on another visit officials saw a dirty cloth being used to wipe grease from a naan bread.

Co-owner Syed Mohammed Ali, 34, was yesterday banned from managing restaurants or takeaways and given a 33-week prison sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to 14 food hygiene offences at an earlier hearing. He was also ordered to pay £2,900 costs, carry out 240 hours of unpaid work in the community and fined £100 for a licensing offence.

His brother Syed Shanur Ali, 41, who performed cooking and managerial duties, admitted 10 food hygiene offences and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

The judge said: "To describe hygiene conditions at the Royal Bengal, under your management, as ghastly would be to misstate and misunderstand the situation. It is stomach-churning and terrifying…"

The judge said Syed Mohammed Ali's sentence was harsher because he had already received a similar conviction in relation to the Royal Bengal in 2004.

A warrant for the arrest of a third defendant, 35-year-old Faisal Murad, was issued after it emerged he had not returned from a visit to India. Murad, who is also registered as a co-owner, previously pleaded guilty to 14 food hygiene offences and one licensing offence, but sent a doctor's letter claiming he was unable to travel because of a back injury.

All three defendants have given their addresses as the restaurant in High Street, Lowestoft.

Matthew McNiff, prosecuting, said the council officers discovered food was also being prepared in a dirty and rat-infested outdoor shed, where rodent droppings were found.

"The view is that the conditions in the shed were nothing short of squalid," he added.

Generally, widespread dirty walls, floors, work surfaces and containers were found contaminated with food debris and mould. Repeat visits discovered more offences and failures to provide members of staff with food hygiene training.

Andrew Shaw, for the two brothers, said they were sorry for what happened, but insisted there had been no complaints about restaurant customers suffering ill-health. He added that his clients believed they had gone on to take the necessary steps to meet the required standards, but had since been forced to close the business after adverse publicity saw trade fall.

Speaking after the hearing, Waveney council's principal environmental health officer Tony Burgess said: "I hope the convictions send out a message that we and the courts will not tolerate businesses that put the public at risk."

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