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Royston restaurant to pay over £150,000 for food hygiene failures

Poppadoms stored on a plate covered in greasy, damaged foil
Poppadoms being stored on a plate covered in greasy, damaged foil

The owner and manager of British Raj Express at 73 Kneesworth Street in Royston have been ordered to pay nearly £150,000 at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on 30 May.

The owner of British Raj Express – registered under the name Romeo & Juliet Limited – and manager – Muhammad Ali Safwaan Choudhury – previously pleaded guilty to a number of food hygiene offences on 12 January at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court, at which the owner agreed to pay the council’s costs of £7,252.86.

On 30 May, Mr Choudhury, from Luton, was fined £15,000 for an offence in February 2023, £20,000 for an offence in March 2023 and £40,000 for an offence in May 2023, as well as a £2,000 victim surcharge. A collection order of £500 per month will start on 28 June. He was also given an interim Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO), prohibiting him from working at the restaurant, and a full CBO application hearing is scheduled for 20 September.

Romeo and Juliet Limited was fined £30,000 for the first offence and £40,000 for the second offence, plus an additional victim surcharge of £2,000.

This totals £149,000 which will be paid to the courts, and £156,252.86 including the council’s costs.

The prosecution was brought by North Herts Council following visits by Environmental Health Officers. Officers visited the premises on a number of occasions during 2023 and although food hygiene issues were drawn to the attention of the owner and manager, no improvements were found on subsequent inspections. Issues included:

Dirty light switch
  • not keeping the premises clean – areas below equipment within the kitchen were greasy and collecting debris including rat droppings, dirty tea towels around the kitchen were being used for cleaning, and a light switch within the dry store area was dirty which could contaminate hands
  • poor storage of waste and control of pests – waste piled up in an uncontrolled manner with the back door left open allowing access to pests, rodent monitoring boxes not kept in good condition
  • inadequate hand washing facilities for food handlers – lack of hot water, soap and hand drying materials and poor drainage – the wash hand basin was so slow draining that food handlers could not effectively wash their hands due to the inability to clean them in fresh water
  • poor practice by food handlers – correct protective white coats and aprons were not always worn by workers in the kitchen, including the head chef
  • poor food storage and cross contamination – food kept uncovered under sink, ready to eat poppadoms stored on a plate covered in greasy, damaged foil, food in fridge with no stated shelf life and no method to ensure ready to eat food was being stored in containers that had not previously been used to store raw meat/fish.

Jo Doggett, Service Director for Housing & Environmental Health, said: “Inspecting restaurants and other food businesses is a vital service that some people may not realise we provide, helping to ensure residents can enjoy their favourite takeaway or meal out safely. This case shows how important our work is, and the significant fines prove how harmful the breaches were.

“We have a team of Environmental Health Officers who carry out routine inspections as well as investigate food poisoning complaints at food businesses across the district. These routine inspections provide the ratings for the Food Standards Agency's ‘scores on the doors’ scheme, giving a food hygiene level between zero and five to every café, pub, restaurant, takeaway and delivery outlet in North Herts. We also provide food hygiene training courses for new staff to help food businesses meet their legal training responsibilities.”

Food being stored under the sink and rat droppings

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