This Chinese restaurant has been hit with a massive fine for a catalogue of hygiene offences.
Evidence of a mouse infestation, poor personal hygiene practices, and a lack of adequate systems to keep food free from contamination were among concerns found by inspectors at the Hot Wok in Middlesbrough, which has now been hit with a £30,000 fine.
Environmental Heath Officers shut down the restaurant in the town's Linthorpe Road last November after they found poor standards of cleanliness and evidence of a widespread mouse infestation.
A hygiene emergency prohibition notice was served requiring its immediate closure.
The restaurant was not allowed to reopen until officers had carried out a further food hygiene assessment and were satisfied that effective pest treatment and prevention measures had been carried out and the premises thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
During a follow-up monitoring visit in February officers found a lack of cleaning, poor personal hygiene practices, and poor standards of cleanliness and maintenance to the structure and equipment.
When a further inspection in June again found hygiene standards had deteriorated, emergency closure measures were implemented and the premises closed with immediate effect.
Appearing before Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, business operator Smile Z & W Limited admitted 11 offences including failure to ensure adequate procedures to control pests, to keep the premises and equipment clean and maintained, and to ensure food was protected from contamination.
During the hearing Magistrates stated food outlets had a duty to maintain the highest standards, and that they took businesses endangering public health ‘very seriously’.
The company was fined £48,000, reduced by a third to £32,000 due to an early guilty plea.
It was also ordered to pay £1,188 in costs and a £170 victim surcharge.
Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s Head of Public Protection, said: “This food business has been given every opportunity to improve its hygiene standards.
“However, despite a number of visits and a previous warning they failed to operate their business to the required standards.
“Rodents carry disease and their presence in any food business creates a serious health risk.
“Food businesses must make sure that their premises are kept clean and free from pests at all times.”
Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “The safety of the public is paramount, and our Environmental Health Officers work closely with food businesses to ensure good standards are maintained
“The vast majority of food businesses in Middlesbrough are well managed, operated hygienically and achieve the top food hygiene rating.
“However, where poor standards of hygiene are found in any food business in Middlesbrough, they must take prompt enforcement action and this could also lead to a prosecution and substantial penalties.”