Suffolk hotel convicted of poor catering equipment upkeep

The owner of Limes Hotel in Needham Market, Suffolk, was ordered to pay more than £44,000 after being found guilty of poor health and hygiene standards at the establishment.

Richard Cattermole was told by West Suffolk Magistrates’ Court at the end of January that he acted “recklessly” when it came to maintaining equipment in the hotel’s kitchen.

Food safety officers arrived unannounced at the hotel following a complaint from a neighbour on 24 October 2013, the court heard.

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The officers from Mid Suffolk District Council found the hotel’s kitchen drain to be “blocked” meaning there were “no facilities to wash hands, food, or clean equipment or utensils”.

David Armstrong, prosecuting for the council, said that meant the dishwasher was also unavailable.

He said: “There was a dirty extractor fan, dirty fly screen, dirty corridors, dirty and rusty racks in the kitchen, damage to a freezer so it could not be hygienically cleaned, pipe work wrapped in tea towels, cupboards not closed and open to air,” he said.

“There was a general lack of cleaning, spillage of flour on shelves; food debris found in the kitchen, equipment connected with food included a baking tray which was found to be dirty and a tin opener.

“Dirty chopping boards, a particular concern regards to cross contamination of food, cutlery stored in dirty trays because of food spillages, equipment left on floor which was dirty, crockery in food trays which were dirty with food debris and lined with unclean tea towels.”

A food safety chart was falsely filled in, claiming that “clear as you go” cleaning had been taking place, the court heard.
Armstrong said hotel staff had complained about the working environment in the kitchen – with temperature a key concern. The food inspectors tested a bottle of vinegar and found it to be as hot as 28°C (82°F).

“There were dangerously high levels of CO2 present to the point that the range cooker in the kitchen had to be disconnected in order to reduce the dangerous levels of CO2,” he said.

He added as the “totality of conditions were so poor” the risk of harm to customers and staff was “very high”.

In mitigation, Darren Snow, for Cattermole and his company Waterhand, said the day-to-day management of the hotel was the responsibility of senior managers and not Cattermole who would “float in and out of the business”.

Snow said that £21,000 had been spent specifically on the kitchen since then as it was recognised that “significant refurbishment” was needed. In 2013, £249,471 was spent on refreshing the hotel which left it with an operating loss in that year of £114,173, the court heard.

The court fined Cattermole a total of £10,800, with £3,432.40 in costs. Waterhand was fined £24,150, with costs of £6,000.

Cattermole, who used to run up to 26 hotels across the country, now owns the Limes Hotel and The Orwell Hotel in Felixstowe.

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