St Albans chicken takeaway owner prosecuted for food hygiene offences

Food hygiene breaches at Murgano's in St Albans.

Food hygiene breaches at Murgano's in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

The owner of a takeaway business in St Albans has been ordered to pay more than £20,000 for 12 food hygiene offences.

Food hygiene breaches at Murgano's in St Albans.

Food hygiene breaches at Murgano's in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Ibrar Ahmed, 41, admitted breaching food safety regulations at his fried chicken restaurant Murgano’s in Victoria Street.

At the hearing in St Albans Magistrates Court on Monday, May 22, magistrates imposed a Hygiene Protection Order banning Ahmed from running a food business because of the risk he posed to public health.

During an inspection at the takeaway in May 2016, environmental health officers from St Albans district council found numerous failings. Karen Dempsey, for the council, told the court that these included dirty equipment, and that the oven, grill, gas cooker, chiller, sink and hot holding cabinet were ingrained with grease and filth.

There was also dirt on the kitchen walls and flooring, and a chopping board was discovered to be badly stained and scored. A stainless steel knife was heavily smeared with grease and the cleaning equipment was dirty.

Food hygiene breaches at Murgano's in St Albans.

Food hygiene breaches at Murgano's in St Albans. - Credit: Archant

Food was exposed to potential contamination, found to be out-of-date and cooked at too low a temperature.

Ahmed also pleaded guilty to obstructing one of the officers from carrying out an investigation into his business.

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Eleven of Ahmed’s offences were under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2015, and included failure to comply with Hygiene Improvement Notices for critical control points, staff training, ceiling disrepair, wall disrepair, food temperature and enclosure of sump pump.

The others were failure to protect food against contamination, keep equipment clean, keep premises clean, keep premises in good order and ensure that the layout of the premises permitted adequate

Alex Cameron, mitigating for Ahmed, said the defendant had taken over the business without having any experience of the food industry. He was unaware that 10 Hygiene Improvement Notices had been served because he was visiting family in Pakistan, and his staff, which had recently undergone changes, had not passed it on.

Mr Cameron said Ahmed was more focused on customer satisfaction than hygiene and had received no complaints from his diners, and that a prohibition order would make him and his four staff unemployed and dash his hopes of bringing his wife and child to the UK.

Ahmed had made improvements since the last inspection, including staff training and the repair of machinery, and Mr Cameron added that his client had arranged for the manager of another chicken shop to take over the running of the business.

Mr Cameron said Murgano’s was a small business and that Ahmed was living hand-to-mouth with debts of £20,000 and only £95 in his bank account.

Ahmed was fined £792 for each of the 12 counts and ordered to pay costs of £11,208.56 to St Albans council. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £79 which brought the total up to £20,791.56.

After the hearing, Michael Lovelady, the council’s head of legal, democratic and regulatory services, said: “This was a successful prosecution that was in the public interest.

“Our Environmental Health Officers uncovered significant breaches of food hygiene regulations which were a risk to public health. We embarked on court action when it was clear that the required improvements were not being made.

“Fortunately, cases like this in the District are extremely rare. The vast majority of our restaurants and food outlets take their responsibilities very seriously as our regular inspections show.

“Each is awarded a food hygiene rating of one to five with these being available to view on the Food Standards Agency website.”