Hitchin restaurant fined for rat infestation

A Hitchin restaurant has been fined thousands after health inspectors discovered a rat infestation

A Hitchin restaurant has been fined �3,600 after it was found to be overrun with rats.

The owner and manager of The New Punjab Balti on Nightingale Road, were fined a total of �1,700 for contravening food hygiene regulations and made to pay an additional �1,900 in costs by Stevenage magistrates.

The court was told that environmental health officers found clear evidence of a rat infestation in the basement of the restaurant in September last year, and signs that the vermin were eating food stored there.

The restaurant was immediately closed and the owner Uzma Haider and manager Hassan Askri ordered to make “significant improvements” by the following day.

On their return, inspectors found surplus equipment and food had been removed, the area cleaned and remaining ingredients protected.

The restaurant, which had been awarded zero stars out of a possible five by North Herts District Council’s Scores on the Doors scheme after its last inspection, was allowed to reopen.

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Magistrates fined Askri �1,000 for three offences of failing to comply with food hygiene standards and Haider �700 for failing to control pests. They were each ordered to pay �951 in legal costs.

Andy Godman, head of public protection at the council, said: “The environmental health department works hard to check that food outlets in North Herts maintain satisfactory standards. The Scores on the Doors system rates food-serving premises for hygiene and safety – in this case, a previous scoring of zero meant that there was considerable room for improvement, but this clearly didn’t happen. In fact, standards of hygiene at the restaurant had deteriorated since that minimum rating was awarded.

“Hopefully this will serve as a warning to other local restaurant owners that we will not tolerate practices that put the health of our residents at risk.”