Food store fined for food safety breaches

THE OPERATOR of a food store in Kensington was fined £1,000 yesterday (7 April) after pleading guilty at Liverpool Magistrates Court to six breaches of food safety and hygiene.

Itoro John, who runs the African Food Store, 66-68 Prescot Road, Liverpool, L7 0JA, must pay £1,000, with costs of £5,168.46 awarded to Liverpool City Council. The store sells a range of traditional African foods, including chilled/frozen foods, ready-to-eat foods, fresh produce and packaged foods.

When environmental health officers from Liverpool City Council visited the premises on 16 February 2021 they found that the shop was infested with mice and had no pest control measures in place.

Mouse droppings were found on food shelving surfaces in the shop, including where pre-packed/open foods were stored and droppings were also found underneath the kickboards of shelving units where baby products were on display. A total of 11 dead mice were found under food storage shelving units and gnawed food packets were also discovered. There were several gaps/holes in the premises which provided rodents with access/entry points.

Inspectors also noted a lack of regular and effective cleaning of surfaces, namely under shelving units resulting in a build-up of food debris which provided pests with a readily available food source.

The court heard that conditions were so unhygienic that the shop was immediately shut down because it presented an “imminent risk to health.”

After the shop carried out remedial works environmental health officers revisited the store on 3 March 2021 and agreed that the shop could reopen.

The African Food Store was also awarded the lowest food hygiene rating of zero (Urgent Improvement Necessary) based on the inspection findings.

An additional food hygiene inspection was conducted on 26 October 2021. On that inspection, a total of 56 frozen/chilled/hot-held food products including fish, meat and pasties were found without any labelling information including no durability date labelling (such as a best before or use-by date), no manufacturer/producer information, no ingredients list and no description of the food items to accurately identify the exact composition/nature of the product. Due to the lack of sufficient traceability information the food items were voluntarily surrendered and disposed of at the time of the inspection.

Liverpool City Council’s Environmental Health service operates the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. The public can check the food hygiene rating of most food business in Liverpool by visiting www.food.gov.uk/ratings 

DJ Lloyd stated: “Standards in the shop were very poor. I have seen the photos, and some are very shocking showing dead mice and droppings. Food was not fit for consumption. There were no systems in place for pest control and conditions were extremely poor.”

Liverpool’s Cabinet Member for neighbourhoods Cllr Abdul Qadir said: “This is a shocking case of food safety and hygiene breaches and we can only be thankful that members of the public did not become very ill as a result.

“We will not tolerate food businesses operating in this manner and the seriousness of this charge is reflected in the considerable fine levelled at the owner.

“As ever, praise must be given to our environmental health team. The officers do incredible work in Liverpool ensuring that retailers comply with the law and keep us all safe.”

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