Environmental Health officers from Wirral say they are pleased with the improvements made at an Indian restaurant which was prosecuted last week.
The then manager of Tandoori Mahal, Mr Ajmol Ali, appeared in Wirral Magistrates Court on Friday 30th September to plead guilty to seven food hygiene related offences identified during an inspection by an Environmental Health officer in June 2016. Magistrates told Ali the charges were “serious offences” and fined him £6,720.
The conditions were described by the investigating officer as being ‘the poorest he had ever seen’ as he found a number of dead and decomposing mice, mice droppings and poor standards of cleanliness and hygiene at the restaurant’s kitchen.
However, in the 15 months since that inspection and the case going to court, Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers supported, encouraged and motivated the new management team and staff at Tandoori Mahal to bring about significant improvements and deliver a ‘very good’ 5-star rating after its latest inspection.
Officers have given advice on hygiene, structure and documentation which, they say, was readily accepted and embraced. This led to Tandoori Mahal receiving a "satisfactory" 3-star rating in January this year and the latest 5-star rating in September.
Cllr Phillip Brightmore, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “There are times when formal action is the only justifiable response and we won't hesitate to prosecute when we encounter examples, such as at Tandoori Mahal last year, where public health has been put in serious danger.
“However, our approach to food safety inspections is very much to work proactively with businesses to promote the best possible standards.
"Through a programme of support, encouragement and guidance, our officers have gone the extra mile with this particular business and we are pleased with the improvements and compliance now in place at Tandoori Mahal.”
The conditions that led to the prosecution of Tandoori Mahal were identified on June 9th 2016 when a multi-agency visit was carried out to the business premises by trading standards and environmental health as part of the police, immigration and national food fraud crime initiative.
The Environmental Health officers was immediately concerned about the cleanliness of the kitchen and decided to carry out a full food hygiene inspection. His initial observation was that the kitchen walls were tacky to the touch with a pungent odour of stale grease in the air.
The officer then looked behind the freezer in the left rear corner of the stock room and observed what appeared to be mouse droppings. There was also evidence of mouse droppings, dirty equipment and dirty surfaces and extremely poor storage was also found across the kitchen.
Two tubs of chicken had been left for three hours without lids and were not temperature controlled. Vegetables were stored in an outdoor shed covered with cobwebs and flaking paint and there were inadequate hand washing facilities for staff - who were using water from a milk container after visiting an outside toilet.
The investigating officer said he was concerned an ice cream scoop in a wash basin inside the kitchen could become contaminated with faecal matter.
In a statement to the court, the Council’s legal representative Ken Abraham said: “The evidence of widespread infections were clear and obvious. The defendant and his employees were aware of the problem for some time and the position carried on.
“Equally the risks that such infestation posed were or should have been obvious. It was a significant problem that needed addressing.”