Revealed: Filthy conditions and people sleeping at Tasty Chinese restaurant on Prince of Wales Road
- Credit: Archant
Courts have fined a 'scapegoat' almost £1,000 after discovering filthy conditions and people sleeping in a Chinese restaurant on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich.
Investigations began into food hygiene at the Tasty Chinese restaurant in February of last year when environmental health officers visited the premises.
Over four visits during the following four months, officers uncovered a litany of breaches including food being stored in the disabled toilet and cross contamination.
David Lowens, prosecuting on behalf of Norwich City Council, told Norwich Magistrates Court yesterday they had been unable to identify the owner.
Instead, 27-year-old employee Cheng Zeng was brought to the dock where he admitted a total of 17 food hygiene breaches.
'This has been a significantly difficult premises to investigate,' said Mr Lowens. 'The council has faced problems trying to work out who is in control.
'Mr Zeng's presence has at least been consistent. He has been the manager on various dates and as food business operator he is the person with responsibility for ensuring food hygiene regulations are complied with.'
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Enquiries had led the council to Top Valley Ltd, based out of Birmingham, but listed as a dormant company with just £10 in assets.
Mr Lowens said during inspections between February 11 and June 9 last year, surfaces were found 'soiled with food debris' and the floor 'greasy and heavily soiled.'
'Rooms were being used both as sleeping accommodation and for storage of food,' he added. 'The disabled toilet, or a room where a disabled toilet was placed, was also used for storage of food. That had the effect there was not anywhere for a disabled person to go to the toilet in these premises.'
Find the most recent food hygiene ratings in Norfolk here Within the 17 charges against Zeng were allegations he had failed to protect against contamination likely to render food unfit for human consumption.
Sea food had been placed above salad leaves, the basement was not pest proof, and containers of noodles and pak choi were left on the floor or in open black bin bags.
'This was a commercial kitchen and it is inappropriate and risky for products to be stored on the floor,' said Mr Lowens. 'It is also inappropriate to use a plastic refuge sack in these premises for storage of food.
'The basic problem with these premises are the law requires someone running the premises ask what the problems are and sets out a scheme to deal with them.
'Probably due to inexperience, there was nothing here.
'Food ingredients were stored in a way that could lead to contamination. If it wasn't serious it would be amusing when the chef said the restaurant was only for Chinese people. That was inaccurate and a complete failure to grasp the problems.
'Raw chicken meat was being stored above cooked pork and raw fish was being stored next to cooked foods.'
'It is fair to say the case we have is Mr Zeng is more taken advantage of than anything else by those who placed him in this position,' Mr Lowens said. 'He seems to have been put in a situation where it was beyond his capability to do what was necessary.
'The business is still trading under reasonably new management. Mr Zeng is still present and there is a long way to go yet.'
Appearing unrepresented, Zeng told the court he was 'just an employee'.
'When I received the letter from the health and safety officer because of my English level I wasn't able to understand,' he said via an interpreter.
'I do not know very much and I just followed the routine. I told my employer but they did not take any action. My duty was just to serve the customers.
'I want to say sorry to the health and safety officers.'
Cathy Dobson, chairman of the bench, said they felt Zeng had 'probably been used as a scapegoat and the real perpetrators have not been brought to court'.
Despite this the bench fined Zeng, of Mansfield Road, Manchester, £960, with £500 costs and a £96 victim surcharge.
'One of our concerns is the people who should be accountable for the state of this restaurant are not here today to answer the charges,' added Mrs Dobson.
'These premises posed a severe danger to the health of the public.'