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Last updated: 09.08.11

Poor food safety standards result in prosecution

Magistrates have fined a town centre takeaway in Swindon for failing to meet essential food hygiene codes of practice.

Princeton's Grill on Market Street was fined £6,000 by local authorities after inspectors found mould on grated cheese, pizza sauces and other foods including an 'unidentified' substance, reports the Swindon Advertiser.

Food safety inspections are a hugely important public health concern, and local authorities up and down the country are responsible for ensuring that businesses selling food, whether they’re a corner shop, takeaway or restaurant, are doing so in a safe manner. Fines are one method of punishing poor standards, but in severe cases, establishments can be indefinitely closed by inspectors, and in this case, the Princeton’s Grill is no longer in business.

Gulstan Mahmood of the now defunct takeaway shop was ordered to pay £3,087 in costs, a fine of £2,900 fine and a £15 penalty per victim after pleading guilty to ten charges.

"It was clear to the officers that Mr Mahmood has a poor understanding of his obligations to maintain the appropriate level of food hygiene within the premises," said prosecutor Phil Worth.

The Food Hygiene Rating System

This latest prosecution follows a string of offences up and down the country highlighting that while basic health and hygiene certificates are widely available to the general public, lapses can continue. The rating system is now well recognised by consumers, allocating a premises a score between 0 (poorest) to 5 (best), but it has not in all cases resulted in business operators recognising that health and safety is paramount. This is despite the fact that there is a legal obligation for businesses to make their rating publicly visible in Wales and NI, and in England the information is readily available online.

Sarah Daniels, chartered health practitioner and co-founder of Redcat.gb.com - a health and safety consultancy - claimed that the scheme to measure food hygiene in premises is "fundamentally a great system". While some businesses still haven’t caught up with consumer and legal expectations, consumers do have a much better ability to make their own choices about whether to give their custom to a retailer or caterer.

Improving Standards

It’s important to note that food hygiene inspections are not conducted with purely punitive measures in mind; inspectors generally give businesses advice on how they can better meet their obligations to reach a five star rating. In this case, Mr Mahmood will have been given the opportunity to improve the standards of hygiene within his business.

For more information on how the food hygiene inspection and rating system works, whether you’re a business owner or employee working in the industry, then consider taking one of the Virtual College courses on food hygiene.