A restaurant that broke an emergency hygiene notice by continuing to prepare food in prohibited areas has been fined £35,000 – the largest ever sum in a prosecution of its kind brought by South Oxfordshire District Council.
The Star and Garter Limited, which operates The Star and Garter in Thame, pleaded guilty to nine offences under food hygiene regulations at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday (27 February).
The court fined the company £35,000 and ordered it to pay costs to South Oxfordshire District Council of £2,071 and a victim surcharge of £170.
During a routine food hygiene inspection of the premises on 9 March 2017, council officers found that some of the rooms used for food preparation and storage were infested by rats.
These rooms were also unclean, food was not protected from contamination and food safety procedures were not being implemented, despite records stating that checks had been done and no problems found. There were no signs of rats in the kitchen, however that room also required cleaning. A hygiene emergency prohibition notice was served prohibiting the use of some of the rooms, with printed copies of the notice put in place at all entrances to the building.
The photo below was taken during the routine inspection.
When they revisited the restaurant the following day, officers found that these rooms were still being used for food preparation and copies of the prohibition notices were concealed – breaching terms of the notice. During a second revisit on 11 March 2017, officers found that displayed copies of the notices had again been concealed.
In fining the company, the court said it had shown flagrant disregard to the prohibition process and criticised the premises’ poor record of compliance, with offences potentially putting customers at risk.
Cllr Elizabeth Gillespie, the council’s cabinet member for Housing and Environment,
said “The vast majority of food establishments across the district have good levels of compliance, however on occasion when standards aren’t being met the council will take action to safeguard against any dangers to health.
“It is very rare that food business operators will ignore and even breach these safeguards. This case demonstrates that should this happen the council will not hesitate to take robust action and this fine – the largest in a prosecution brought by us under food safety laws – reflects the seriousness of such breaches.”
At the time of the contraventions, the restaurant was awarded a zero out of five-rating meaning “Urgent Improvement Necessary” under the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. The company requested an inspection for re-rating in August 2017 and was awarded a two, meaning “Improvement Necessary”. The company requested another inspection for re-rating in January this year and was awarded a three meaning “Generally Satisfactory”.