The former boss of a Chinese takeaway has been fined after his filthy premises became a haven for rats.
Shi Le Zhang, who ran 88 Noodle Bar in Cross Church Street, Huddersfield, pleaded guilty to four breaches of food safety and hygiene regulations.
Kirklees magistrates heard how rat droppings were found and food preparation areas were dirty with staff allowed to smoke around ingredients.
The court was told that standards of the takeaway – currently with a zero rating for hygiene – slipped after its chefs left the country for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
Miles Barker, prosecuting on behalf of Kirklees Council, said that the town centre premises had been known to the Environmental Health service since at least 2006.
He explained that the business has never scored more than a two out of five in the Food Standards Agency’s scores on doors ratings.
On the evening of January 29 the council’s officers attended at the takeaway.
They found that food was being stored and prepared outside in the rear yard.
This yard forms part of an alleyway running behind all of the shops in Cross Church Street.
Mr Barker said: “It has a known rat infestation which is not uncommon in Huddersfield now due to the ageing of the properties.
“The rats appear to thrive on access to rubbish from businesses around there.”
Magistrates heard that part of this area was sectioned off with a wall, gates and a corrugated roof.
Mr Barker said: “It was clear that food was being stored and prepared there.
“A metal table had a bucket of chopped pork and two buckets of vegetables.”
“There was food debris and peelings in a tray and fridge freezers and shelves.
“There was evidence of rat activity outside and rat droppings were found in various locations.”
Mr Barker said that there was evidence of smoking in this area and it was an offence to smoke in a food preparation area.
There was no hot water in the kitchen hand wash basin and dishcloths where food was being prepared were so dirty that they had to be thrown away.
Plastic boxes of cooked rice sat at 21 degrees and large amounts of other food had been left out at room temperature, providing a breeding ground for bacteria.
The freezer was not running at the correct temperature and food including fried eggs were left uncovered on shelves.
Mr Barker added: “Raw meat was defrosting in washing up bowls not designated as raw meat only.
“Filters were missing from an extraction canopy so there was no way of removing moisture and grease from the air.
“This attracts dirt and germs and also presents a fire safety hazard.
“It wasn’t being cleaned frequently enough and the officers were very disappointed in what they found.”
Zhang, who said he is now just a chef at the takeaway, closed down the takeaway immediately and had it cleaned.
With the aid of a Mandarin interpreter, he said: “It was the Chinese New Year and some of the chefs went back to China.
“Other part time staff tried to cover and for a month made a mess of it.”
Magistrates told the 42-year-old they were concerned about the public safety and the business, which they described as prominent and popular with students.
Due to his limited means they ordered him to pay £150 fine as well as £500 prosecution costs.
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