Pub owner fined for filthy kitchen

PUBLISHED: 05:52 08 February 2007 | UPDATED: 10:10 31 May 2010

DEAD flies, mouse droppings, mould and out-of-date food found in a pub led to the owner being fined £7000 on Tuesday. Rodney Stokes, owner of The Bluebell Inn in Hempstead appeared before Harlow magistrates and pleaded guilty to 12 counts of stocking food

DEAD flies, mouse droppings, mould and out-of-date food found in a pub led to the owner being fined £7000 on Tuesday.

Rodney Stokes, owner of The Bluebell Inn in Hempstead appeared before Harlow magistrates and pleaded guilty to 12 counts of stocking food unfit for human consumption, failing to comply with food safety regulations and failing to have procedures to prevent pests.

Mr Stokes could have faced a fine of £20,000 per item on the premises, which was deemed unfit to eat.

Uttlesford District Council's environmental health department brought the case against Mr Stokes after an announced visit to the premises on August 21.

An unannounced visit 10 days later revealed 25 items of food in three fridges were mouldy.

The inspections, carried out by environmental health officers at Uttlesford District Council, Gareth Olive and Janet Caton, also uncovered dead flies in a freezer and a food storage container, as well as mouse droppings in the lobby area, a suspended ceiling and in an extended food storage room outside the kitchen.

Val Rogacs, prosecuting, told the court: "The authority regards prosecution as a very significant step and is generally restricted to those who blatantly disregard the law.

"It is also there for people who refuse to achieve the basic minimum legal requirement, often following previous contact with the authority, or who put themselves and consumers at risk.

"An effective food safety management system, consisting of a hazard analysis and critical control points were not in place and poor stock rotation was evident," she said.

"In the fridges, officers discovered a large quantity of mouldy, decomposing and putrified food."

She added an action plan was received from the owners on August 30 indicating the removal and appropriate disposal of out-of-date food, and that a thorough cleaning of the kitchen had been completed.

But officers called unannounced the next day and found dirty equipment and no checks on out-of-date food had taken place as another six items of food unfit for human consumption were found.

Tobias Eaton, mitigating, said Mr Stokes took full responsibility as he runs the kitchen and that procedures had since been put in place to put things right.

"Mr Stokes is doing everything he can to make a go of the business, is completely remorseful, wants to do business in an efficient way and welcomed the investigation," he said.

"I ask you to give consideration to Mr Stokes for his cooperation, for pleading guilty, for his remorse and for his efforts to correct the situation."

Mr Stokes was fined £7000 and ordered to pay £1600 costs. Chairman of the bench Susan Higgins said: "You have shown a blatant disregard to hygiene and an inability to defend against a serious risk to public health.

"We accept you've put in place procedures to put things right.

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