Restaurant ordered to close following council investigation
A city centre restaurant has been ordered to close by Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court after the council’s Environmental Health team took “every step” to hold owners accountable for failing to meet hygiene standards.
The restaurant ignored multiple notices from Environmental Health
The sushi restaurant, which was rated 1 and then 0 on the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme by council inspectors, had been told by officers they needed to make major improvements to their standards on numerous occasions, but failed to do so.
Chelmsford City Council officers had served the business owner multiple Hygiene Improvement Notices and carried out numerous inspections on the restaurant before opting to take the owner to court.
The advice given and the deadlines set by officers were ignored repeatedly by the business, despite inspections noting failings including:
- Lack of a documented food safety management system
- Poor condition of premises structure
- Poor cleaning levels
- Poor pest control
- Evidence of contamination and poor stock rotation
A member of the public also reported the establishment to the council and Trading Standards when she suffered an anaphylactic shock after dining there. The customer had informed staff of her severe nut allergy before ordering and was assured that her meal would not and did not contain nuts. After eating, she suffered an anaphylactic attack that resulted in her requiring hospital treatment.
A follow up inspection found this was caused by contamination, due to a lack of a food safety management system, and issued further instructions for improvement. As the business continued to fail to comply to Hygiene Improvement Notices it was deemed a threat to public safety, and the council opted to begin criminal proceedings.
Strong ruling from judge is warning to food outlets
On 27 April 2023, at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court, the restaurant’s owner was sentenced for failure to comply with two food Hygiene Improvement Notices; one for lack of a food safety management system and a second for poor structure conditions.
The business owner was ordered to pay a fine of £24,000 and all court costs for the prosecution. On top of this, a Hygiene Prohibition Notice was imposed on the business, meaning it cannot operate until a hygiene inspection finds that standards are to the satisfaction of the city council.
Among his remarks, the Judge noted: “As to culpability, this is in the highest category. City Council told the company what the [problems] were, explained very clearly what had to happen and the company simply ignored it. That is a deliberate and flagrant disregard.”
Izzie Daniel, lead compliance officer for the case, says prohibition notices like this one are rarely issued. She believes the severity of the outcome accurately reflects the lack of effort by the business to cooperate.
"Food outlets are under huge pressure, with rising energy costs only adding to the strains already facing their industry post-pandemic. A common reaction to loss of profits is to cut back on staff, but this can lead to remaining staff being stretched too thin and standards dropping.Izzie Daniel, Business Compliance Lead Officer, Chelmsford City Council
No-one wants to see businesses close, especially in such a trying time, which is why we always offer advice and allow them time to rectify any problems in the first instance. Unfortunately, in the case of Sushi One, no efforts were made to comply with Notices until it was too late.
We implore businesses to heed our advice at inspections, to avoid this kind of outcome."
If Sushi One comply with the Hygiene Improvement Notices issued to them, and a hygiene inspection finds that standards are to the satisfaction of the City Council, they will be able to reopen. They will also be subject to ongoing inspections from Environmental Health officers, as are all businesses.
Food outlets are regularly inspected by Environmental Health officers
Environmental Health officers carry out regular Hygiene Inspections at any business serving food to the public. These inspections ensure that businesses are complying to hygiene standards set by the Food Standards Agency. There are three areas inspectors consider:
- Hygienic food handling (including preparation, cooking, re-heating, cooling and storage)
- Cleanliness and condition of facilities and building (including layout, ventilation, hand washing facilities and pest control)
- Management of food safety (meaning the systems/checks in place to ensure that food served is safe to eat)
According to Councillor Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford, this case should serve as a reminder to other food outlets that these inspections and their outcomes are a serious matter.
"While this is an extreme case, it’s important for restaurants and food outlets to remember that such outcomes will occur where warranted. When advice is given and notices are issued, complying will lead to better outcomes for everyone involved – customers and businesses.Cllr Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for a Greener and Safer Chelmsford
We expect businesses across the Chelmsford district to operate at the highest standards. Where that is not the case, Environmental Health will give them the time needed to comply and guide them in how to do so – but let this case show that Chelmsford City Council will absolutely not tolerate risk to the public, and will pursue all avenues available in order to protect people from harm."
Understanding Food Hygiene Ratings
As this case shows, appearances front of house don’t always reflect what is happening behind the scenes, but Food Hygiene Ratings can tell you what you need to know.
Environmental Health officers can carry out as many inspections as they deem necessary throughout the year – the more concerns they have about a vendor’s standards, the more visits they will make.
For any business that sells or serves food to the public, one inspection per year will involve the issuing of a Food Hygiene rating, in accordance with the Food Standards Agency. Some food outlets display their Hygiene Rating, but it is not compulsory to do so.
You can find the current Food Hygiene Rating of any business on the FSA website. By searching the business’ name and location, you can find the overall rating (as is often seen on window stickers), and a breakdown of that rating. This can give you a greater understanding of where improvements have been advised, allowing you to make a better-informed decision on where you choose to eat.
If you have any concerns about hygiene standards at establishments anywhere in the Chelmsford District, please report them to our Environmental Health team.