The owners of an Oldham fish and chip shop have been fined more than £2000 after food inspectors found hygiene conditions to be so ‘appalling’ even the MICE suffered agonising deaths.
The three rodents suffocated or starved after they got themselves stuck in a glue trap which had been put down to stop them scavenging for scraps in food jars.
But they were then left to rot while staff at Oldham Fisheries in Oldham, Greater Manchester carried on serving takeaway meals.
Heath inspectors from Oldham Council eventually found the dead mice in a cellar – still attached to the glue board – during an inspection of the shop which promised customers: ‘finest fish and chips’ and Halal curry dishes.
They also found mouse droppings in not only herb and spice mixes but also over the kitchen floor, cooking equipment and even surfaces where food was prepared.
The deep fat fryer used to cook battered cod and chips was engrained with grease and grime, while food was kept in a rusty freezer which was partially held together with white sticky tape.
Staff were allowed to work in t-shirts, jeans and trainers with no protective clothing and were unable to wash their hands as the sink was used as a makeshift wardrobe where they could dump their coats.
At Oldham magistrates court, an angry JP condemned the owners of the takeaway for their ‘appalling’ hygiene and said he wished him and his colleagues could impose a tougher punishment – but was powerless to do so under sentencing guidelines.
Instead Joe Farquhar, chairman of the bench, said he could only fine businessmen Iram Bibi and Sarfraz Rouf justy £250 each as the business was now closed.
The pair were also ordered to pay a total of £2,335 towards prosecution costs plus a victim surcharge of £25 each.
The takeaway’s grisly secret emerged after officers from the Environmental Health Department visited the premises on May 15 last year.
During their investigation officers found mouse droppings throughout the kitchen and cellar; on the flooring, equipment and on food surfaces.
The three dead mice were discovered on a glue board in the cellar.
A report said food was left uncovered and unprotected against contamination and dirty cloths were being used to clean work surfaces.
The chest freezer lid in the cellar was heavily scoured and rusting in places. It was also covered with plastic tape and dirt was engrained in the worn surface.
There was no hot and cold water available for employees tom wash their hands.
It was also apparent during the visit that food handlers had not been trained in food hygiene matters and the takeaway was immediately closed down.
Ruth Crimmins prosecuting told the hearing: ”There is a basic hygiene requirement we would all hope to expect from food outlets but far too often we see that these standards are not complied with and premises fall well below standard requirement.
In mitigation, Rouf, from Manchester admitted the state of the premises was unacceptable but said he didn’t have a ‘vast knowledge’ of food hygiene.
He claimed he had been having problems with his landlord. It is thought Rouf reopened the takeaway after a clean-up but closed it for good following the death of his father.
He and Bibi pleaded guilty to ten charges under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
Mr Farquhar said: ”This is an appalling case and if you were still trading your fine would be a lot higher. I would like to have fined you a much higher amount but my hands are tied as the business is now closed and I have to believe that your income is what you say it is
”The fact is that you should never have put the public at risk like that. You say you don’t have a vast knowledge of food hygiene but it only takes common sense to know what a bad state your takeaway was in – how can anyone not know that mouse droppings in food is unacceptable?’
”I have seen the extent to which environmental health officers go to make sure the public are not at risk. I cannot believe the state Oldham Fisheries was in when it was inspected.
”You must make sure you pay the costs imposed on you because otherwise it is taxpayers footing the bill – and that is not fair – why should they pay for your mistakes.”
After the case Labour Councillor Jean Stretton, Oldham Council’s Cabinet Member for Co-operatives and Neighbourhoods, said: “Oldham Council takes matters like this very seriously and we are committed to ensuring there are no serious lapses in food hygiene in premises.
“To protect the health and safety of our residents we will not hesitate to take action in cases like these.
“Business owners who run food establishments must comply with food hygiene laws or be prepared to face the consequences.”
Animal rights organisation Peta say glue traps are one of the cruellest methods of killing animals.
Manufacturers generally direct customers to throw away animals along with the trap, leaving the animals to suffer for days until they finally die of stress, exposure, or dehydration.
Some animals get their noses and mouths or beaks stuck in the glue and suffocate, which can take hours.
Image coutesy of Cindy Cornett Seigle, with thanks.