People being caught will force others to improve

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Going out to eat this weekend?

You may think twice after reading the story on page four about shocking standards of hygiene at a popular restaurant in Portsmouth.

We seem to have had a steady stream of these cases lately. Restaurant gets sloppy, council sends in environmental health officers, owners end up in court and get hit with a fine. It’s depressingly familiar.

This time it’s the Hong Kong Tea Bar that has been up in front of magistrates after being prosecuted for a raft of hygiene offences.

If you’re about to eat, then maybe you should consider reading this later on because some of it is genuinely stomach-turning.

Photos seen by magistrates in court show raw ducks hanging in store rooms at room temperature, meat in buckets on top of a chest freezer and an open drain under the kitchen sink which could let in pests.

There were also grimy walls and a mouse infestation. In fact conditions were so bad that an inspector briefly closed the Lake Road restaurant for bosses to carry out urgent improvements.

That, frankly, is worrying enough. But director Chunyin Peng had previously been issued with a warning letter to make some improvements and not all were done.

Why not? The court heard she had spent a lot of time in China because of a medical condition and was not present when the inspection that led to charges being made took place.

But all those who run premises serving food have a responsibility to their customers to ensure that their health is not put at risk.

When we as customers visit a restaurant or takeaway, we have to trust that proper food safety management systems are in place. If they’re not, then those who have failed in their duty should be hauled before the courts.

We commend the council for pushing ahead with prosecutions and are pleased that Peng ended up having to pay nearly £2,800 in fines and costs.

Because it is only people being caught and fined that will force others to up their game and avoid following suit.