Rat stuck in window and decomposing rodent among Walsall hygiene horrors
A rat scurrying across a shop window, dead rodents, filthy cooking equipment and out-of-date food putting lives at risk.
These were some of the horrors Walsall Council food officers discovered during inspections of the borough's shops, restaurants and takeaways during the last 12 months.
A report presented to the authority’s cabinet on Wednesday revealed the council received 257 complaints about food businesses, relating to food, hygiene and structural conditions of premises.
Inspections resulted in four successful prosecutions for serious breaches of food safety hygiene legislation.
In total 1,000 inspections were carried out which included spot checks of 764 existing businesses and 207 new ones.
A number of graphic images were put on display during the meeting to highlight the challenges faced by food safety officers.
One showed the decomposing body of a dead rat lying among foil takeaway containers at an unnamed premises.
Walsall Council said the very elderly and frail owner voluntarily closed the food business down after the inspection. The premises never re-opened under his ownership as he sold it shortly after.
Another rodent, spotted by an environmental health officer during a visit, was pictured scurrying across the window of a Walsall business.
The council said that luckily, upon inspection, the rat hadn’t found its way into the kitchen or food preparation/storage areas but had got ‘stuck’ behind a wooden board and the window itself.
The officers managed to resolve the case informally on that occasion.
Meanwhile out-of-date food and food that should have been refrigerated was discovered being sold in baskets on the shop floor of Warszawa in Caldmore.
The poorly labelled goods resulted in the company having to pay more than £2,000 in fines and costs in December last year.
More photos showed dirty doors and cooking equipment that was in a poor condition. To highlight this, Councillor Perry used photos from Chipmaster in Walsall, which was prosecuted in 2016.
The company was fined £1,000 on each of the eight charges while costs of £2,977 were awarded.
Owner Mandeep Kaur was jailed for 16 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. She also had to pay costs of £300.
Borough's ratings on the rise
Councillor Garry Perry, cabinet member for community, leisure and culture, paid tribute to officers for saving people’s lives while leader Mike Bird called them “unsung heroes”.
Councillor Perry also said a campaign that Walsall spearheaded to make it mandatory for businesses to display their food hygiene rating – or ‘scores on the doors’ – looks set to come into force.
He said that the performance of businesses had improved significantly during the past seven years.
In April 2013, they had 75 per cent of food premises achieved a rating of at least ‘satisfactory’ (three out of five) or more in the borough.
By this year, that number has increased to 90 per cent.
Councillor Perry said: “Officers are the stars of the team, often putting themselves at risk when they are in challenging situations as they highlight some of these issues to some of our businesses.
“I highly value the work they do. Out there, they are potentially saving lives as well as stopping people contracting all sorts of illnesses and viruses as a result of their operation.”
He added: “Regarding ‘scores on the doors’, we wrote to ministers about changing the legislation to make them a mandatory display for business premises associated with food, as happens in some of the other parts of the UK.
“We have had a response back from the Food Standards Agency and it is suggested that this is going to happen, they are currently consulting with food businesses and local authorities.
“All the noise is being made that this is likely to happen which will be a plus for this authority and I’m sure that there are others but I know regionally we took a lead on this.”
Councillor Bird said: “The officers are the unsung heroes. No-one ever says, ‘you’ve saved people’s lives’.
“When you see the pictures, it shows how bad things can be. Yet owners of those businesses are oblivious to the fact they are putting people’s lives at risk.
“I sincerely hope the food hygiene rating system will become mandatory and credit should go to pioneering councils like Walsall for making that happen.”
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