Restaurateur and chef get hefty fines for food hygiene failings

PUBLISHED: 16:04 16 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:51 27 November 2018

Offley Oriental now, after work done since the November 2017 inspection. Picture: Ting Ting Choy

Offley Oriental now, after work done since the November 2017 inspection. Picture: Ting Ting Choy

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The owner and head chef of a restaurant in a village near Hitchin have given hefty fines for a string of food hygiene failings.

Offley Oriental now, after work done since the November 2017 inspection. Picture: Ting Ting ChoyOffley Oriental now, after work done since the November 2017 inspection. Picture: Ting Ting Choy

North Herts District Council brought seven charges against Offley Oriental in Great Offley – as well as director Ting Ting Choy, 44, and head chef Jin Quan Gao, 40 – after the restaurant failed a food hygiene inspection last November.

The court heard that unwrapped food was kept in an unsuitable structure, meaning food cooled to temperatures at which food poisoning bacteria could grow and produce poisons – and that there was evidence of mouse activity and insufficient checks against this.

Soap and towels are not kept by a wash-hand basin, preventing proper hand washing, and aprons were not changed between handling of raw and cooked foods.

Kitchen equipment, plates and crockery were also washed in the same sink as equipment used for raw meat and vegetables – with the same chopping board and knife used for cooked food and raw, unwashed vegetables.

The defendants pleaded guilty to failing to protect food from contamination, failing to control pests or animal access, failing to provide adequate hand-cleansing materials and other charges.

At Luton Magistrates’ Court, they were ordered to pay £5,025 in fines, £1,238.91 costs and £168 surcharge – a total of £6,476.91.

Since November, there have been two further visits by environmental health officers. The district council is confident Offley Oriental is working to correct the issues by carrying out structural works and taking part in food safety training.

Councillor Bernard Lovewell, who is responsible for environmental health at the district council, said: “Our environmental health team have worked hard to bring this prosecution and we feel it sends out a clear message that food businesses need to be operating to acceptable standards.

“Prosecutions like this should give confidence to any consumers that we take breaches of food hygiene regulations very seriously.”

Ms Choy has assured the Comet that the restaurant is now operating at an acceptable standard.

“We have tried very hard to correct the issues,” she said.

“We have fully refurbished the side storage area, and it is now structurally compliant and can be used to cool down food.

“The new side storage room is pest proof. All the doors that lead to the dry store and kitchen are kept shut at all times to prevent pests gaining access to the premises and food preparation areas.

“We have a regular pest control contractor that carries out a check every six weeks, and in our last report at the beginning of July there was no activity found.”

She added that all members of staff had been retrained to use different disposable aprons while preparing raw meat or vegetables, and to use separate sinks for raw meat and ready-to-eat food, plates and crockery.

Wall-mounted soap dispensers have also been added to aid with hand-washing, and Ms Choy said these were checked daily by the head chef at the start of business.

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