The owner of a rodent and cockroach-infested curry house described as ‘one of the worst seen’ by public health officials has been warned he could face a jail sentence.
Ibrar Hussain was running the Caldmore Balti House in Caldmore Road, Walsall, when inspectors found rat droppings covering food preparation surfaces, on crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils and in drinking glasses during a swoop, Walsall Magistrates’ Court heard.
The premises was described as ‘filthy’ and causing a ‘dangerous risk’ of a public health disaster.
The 57-year-old, of Drayton Street, Walsall, admitted four counts of hygiene failings which led to the restaurant being closed down by Walsall Council in March last year.
“The environmental health officer in this case Elizabeth Lee thought it was one of the worst she had seen in her career and she has been qualified since 1993,” said Mr Dominic Patouchas prosecuting for Walsall Council.
“Miss Lee’s colleagues had been examining the customer seating area and noticed mouse droppings,” he added.
“Having seen these droppings officers proceeded to the food preparation area. There food was being prepared for that evening.
“A survey of the food preparation area revealed it was literally peppered with mouse droppings. Miss Lee says ‘I had no need to search as they were literally everywhere on work surfaces, shelving, on crockery and in a skillet used to hold hot Balti dishes’.”
Mr Patouchas told the court no attempt had been made to clean the kitchen and that food was being prepared alongside and among mouse droppings.
Mouse droppings were found on top of the ovens with the kitchen ‘encrusted’ in grease with the walls ‘grimy’ and discoloured’ that the grouting had been stained brown.
The floor was ‘coated in grease and food debris’.
Crockery, glasses, cooking utensils, and food containers were also not cleaned properly, the court was told.
“It is hard to imagine a more serious risk to human health than preparing food next to mouse droppings,” Mr Patouchas said.
The court heard mouse droppings were also found in poppadom containers, that rat droppings were also discovered as well as adult and baby German cockroaches.
The day after the investigation (which took place on March 4 2013), public health officers returned to find eight mice had been caught in traps overnight as well as four cockroaches.
The next day three more mice were caught.
Defending, Mr Anis Ali said the failings were not down to Hussain’s ‘ineptitude’ but a ‘culmination of factors’ in his life - including his sick wife who was suffering heart problems - which led to him not being able to ‘fulfil his responsibilities’.
“He tells me the business has failed and he is on the brink of financial ruin,” said Mr Ali.
“He is looking to transfer his interest in the business to any interested parties,” he told the court.
He said the restaurant has been up for sale for several months and that the defendant was not taking any role in running it.
Chairman of the bench Mrs Gill Pilkington sent the case for sentence at Wolverhampton Crown Court where a prison sentence could be imposed.
She said: “There was an extremely dangerous risk of a public health disaster. You showed a complete disregard for the health and safety of your customers. This shocking environment had clearly built up over a long period of time. Our sentencing powers are insufficient and we feel this case should be committed to Wolverhampton Crown Court for sentence.”