An ‘overwhelmed’ takeaway boss was forced to shut his business after inspectors investigating food poisoning uncovered ‘absolutely filthy’ conditions.
Hygiene inspectors found mouse droppings in the kitchen and bar area at Star of Asia, in Marketway, where a ‘widespread infestation’ had taken hold.
Flakes of ceiling paint were seen falling on to kitchen sides, the cooking range was caked in grease, a light switch was filthy and charred – with staff expected to wash their hands with taps and a basin covered in muck.
Portsmouth City Council officers found no evidence any of Amir Begh’s staff had been trained in food handling – and no pest control was in place at the Indian restaurant during the visit in September.
The city council prosecuted Begh, 38, of Western Parade, Southsea, after finding out he was the registered food business operator.
Begh, who had taken over the business a week before the inspection, admitted eight hygiene criminal charges – with the business slapped with a zero hygiene rating after the September 18 visit.
Sending his case to Portsmouth Crown Court on August 24, magistrate Charlotte Carter said: ‘This is a horrendous picture of a business.’
She added: ‘We consider this to be very high culpability, and our reason is you intentionally breached and flagrantly disregarded the law to the point that even when a visit was made in January the cleaning was still substandard.’
Jenny Ager, prosecuting, said conditions were ‘absolutely filthy’ and the inspection took place after a customer complained about the ‘unclean conditions of the premises’ and made ‘an allegation of food poisoning having been contracted having eaten there’.
The inspector had ‘grave concerns’ about the restaurant, Ms Ager said.
She added: ‘He was so concerned that there was an imminent health risk from food prepared there that he asked the restaurant be closed voluntarily so the identified issues could be addressed before being reopened to the public.’
But even when inspectors were asked back in January conditions were still not good enough.
‘Cleaning was still substandard, food safety records still disorganised and the officer saw a mouse run through the restaurant,’ Ms Ager said.
Quizzed by council officers Begh admitted there was a significant risk to customers and he had been negligent.
The court heard he had arranged a deep clean after taking over but his staff did not turn up for the work. His chef has since taken over, and Begh now works at Paanchi in Fratton Road.
Sally Martin, mitigating, said Begh realised he was ‘out of his depth’ and he was ‘overwhelmed’.
She said: ‘He took this business over a week before.
‘This is a situation which had been building up for what looks like years and not just the week.’
Initially no-one at the restaurant could tell officers who was in charge.
Environmental health had made interventions at the restaurant since 2010 under its former proprietor but it never achieved more than a rating of three.
At the first inspection, environmental health officers found:
- Greasy vent outlet
- Mouse droppings throughout
- Dirty taps and wash basin in staff toilet
- Split liner on the floors
- Cooking range caked in grease
- Mouse droppings next to the deep fat fryer
- Dirty knives
- Poor separation of raw and other food
- Haphazard food storage in main chiller and a dirty fridge
- Greasy preparation block and ‘scored and scratched’ plastic chopping board
- Dirty crockery in the kitchen
- No records of food hygiene steps or training