A restaurant in Birmingham was recently fined £50,000 by magistrates for failing to comply with improvement notices whereby it had continued to serve food on “unhygienic” wooden boards. The restaurant was also ordered to pay £670 in costs and £120 by way of the victim surcharge.
The restaurant had been visited by inspectors from Birmingham City Council in October 2016 following reports of an alleged incident of food poisoning. At that time, officials raised concerns in relation to the cleanliness of the premises and a perceived over-reliance on the use of disposable gloves by staff as an alternative to washing their hands. The use of wooden boards to serve food was also highlighted as a concern where they could not be properly cleaned.
As a result of the inspection, the restaurant was served with an improvement notice. Although some improvements were noted when inspectors returned 2 months later, the same unhygienic wooden boards were still being used to serve food. This led to the business being prosecuted; the business pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 4 January 2018.
Such proceedings should serve as a timely reminder to those involved in the food sector to ensure the highest standards at all times. Food hygiene and safety legislation affects all businesses in the food industry whether it be the large scale manufacturer, the Michelin starred restaurant or the burger van at the side of the road. It is therefore vital that anyone running a business in the food industry fully appreciates what is required of them in order to comply with food safety regulations.
Business owners should always be aware of and consider potential problem areas including the cleanliness of preparation areas; cleanliness of equipment; contamination; food storage; packaging and labelling.
Any failure to comply with the relevant legislation may lead to criminal investigations and/or criminal proceedings through the courts. If you do find yourself subject to an investigation it is certainly advisable to seek legal assistance. In addition to a potential conviction, such cases very often end up in the local press and this can be devastating for a small business, therefore it is important that you present the best possible case from the outset.
At LHS we have a dedicated team of solicitors with criminal and regulatory experience who will be happy to assist you in dealing with any investigation, should the need arise.
For more information about how we can help please call 0161 827 1800.