Prison threat over 'filthy' restaurant

PUBLISHED: 10:13 26 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:53 05 July 2010

Three managers of an Indian restaurant in Lowestoft could be jailed after an investigation revealed that food was being prepared in "squalid", rat-infested conditions.

Three managers of an Indian restaurant in Lowestoft could be jailed after an investigation revealed that food was being prepared in “squalid”, rat-infested conditions.

It was only good fortune that no one who ate at the Royal Bengal restaurant, in High Street, was made ill as a result of the filthy conditions behind the scenes, Lowestoft Magistrates' Court heard yesterday.

Rob Barley, prosecuting for Waveney District Council, said: “Behind a façade of respectability, food was being stored, prepared and cooked in squalid conditions.

“Frankly, it is rather fortunate, to say the least, that ill health was not caused as a result of the conditions in which food was being stored and prepared. It is quite clear the premises were in a very poor condition.”

Tony Burgess and Paul Goldsmith, from the council's environmental health department, oversaw an investigation that started on January 2 with a food hygiene inspection.

Mr Goldsmith found the ceiling of the kitchen was dirty with food debris attached, and a saucepan was being used to heat water for washing hands and utensils because the boiler had broken.

Mouldy food containers were found, including one in which cooked prawns were defrosting. Another dirty and split container was used to store rice. The flooring was dirty with encrusted food debris along the edges.

The investigation then moved to a rat-infested outside wooden shed where food was stored and prepared. Rat droppings were found on the floor and the wall surfaces were covered in black mould, with food debris attached.

Council investigators said food storage facilities were in a “very poor” condition, with no evidence of any efforts to maintain cleanliness.

During the visit, a chef from the kitchen was also observed handling raw chicken and then touching cooked food without washing his hands.

Further visits were made during the year and, despite the council ordering a raft of improvements, investigators continued to find filthy conditions.

On August 20, a chef was seen to wipe liquid grease off a cooked naan bread with a filthy cloth and chefs' aprons were found to be filthy.

Before the court yesterday were Syed Mohammed Ali, 34, and Faisal Murad, 35, who both admitted 14 food hygiene offences and a licensing offence. Syed Shanur Ali, 41, admitted 10 food hygiene offences. All three gave their address as the restaurant in High Street.

District judge David Cooper praised the Waveney District Council investigation, and warned the three men they could be jailed for their offences.

He committed them to Ipswich Crown Court to be sentenced on a future date and said: “It is absolutely disgusting and I was appalled.”

Martin Clarke, for the three defendants, said the restaurant was still open, but that the impact of regular closures of Lowestoft's bascule bridge had hit their income.

“They are making efforts to improve. They are not wilfully blind to the problem,” he added.

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