Dead cockroaches, tar-like deposits of uncleaned food grease, and repeated disregard of warnings saw the owners of a Jamaican takeaway receive the highest food safety offences fine ever dished out by Croydon magistrates.
Freddie Williams and Murphy Lawrence, directors of Tasty Jerk, admitted five food hygiene offences after repeated visits from council inspectors.
The bench considered the matter so serious that each defendant and the company was fined £1,976 per offence plus a victim surcharge of £120, making a total of £30,000. They were also ordered to make a contribution to costs of £976.
The court was told that the business had consistently failed to meet hygiene standards since it was first being visited by Croydon Council food safety officers in 2005. Efforts were made after each visit, but were never maintained.
Officers made another visit last May, during which they found a heavy infestation of cockroaches and mice. Once again the business was given advice on cleaning and how to maintain standards, and the owners voluntarily closed the business in order for the work to be carried out.
A return visit in November found further evidence of poor practice and non-compliance with the food hygiene regulations.
Kitchen equipment was filthy, with dead cockroaches found in dirty food trays. Other discoveries included heavy build-ups of grease and baked-on food remains on the cooker, filters and extraction canopy; food debris and stagnant water found on floors and behind fittings; and no soap and hand-drying facilities at the wash hand basin.
When officers revisited at the beginning and end of November, they noted that it was obvious that no cleaning had been carried out for a long time and that there had been a failure to comply with notices served in May.
Councillor Simon Hoar, cabinet member for community safety, said: “This is an appalling case of a blatant and repeated disregard of the food hygiene regulations by people who’d had plenty of warnings and advice from our food safety officers. Most worrying is the fact that their failure to properly manage and conduct their business put their customers at a genuine risk of serious food poisoning.
“The gravity of the matter has, I’m glad to say, been recognised by the justice system. The weight of the penalty imposed in this case must serve as a warning to all catering businesses that they have a legal and a moral duty to abide by the regulations.”