Café owner hit with big fine for food hygiene offences

The owner of Delicious cafe in Clinton Arms Court, Newark, Dr Raphael Stern (68) of Golders Green, London, pleaded guilty to the 17 offences food hygiene offences when he appeared at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on September 19th, following a prosecution brought by Newark and Sherwood District Council.

Dr Stern was fined £5,800 and ordered to pay £200 towards the investigation cost and £100 towards the legal costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge, making a total of £6,115.

A senior Environmental health Officer for the council, Richard Mecia, visited Delicious on May 18th following a complaint from a customer about various safety and food issues.

Delicious cafe kitchen conditions As a result of the poor conditions found and absence of adequate facilities and systems for hygiene, Dr Stern was required by letters and hygiene improvement notices to comply with the food hygiene regulations.

A further complaint was received from another member of the public and the council’s Senior Food and Safety Officer, Gail Tranter, and Environmental Health Officer, Victoria Rogers visited the café on June 7th. On that day, and 17 other times between June and August, conditions were found to be poor.

Offences included keeping unsafe food available for use in a food business (out of date food), failure to keep clean and where necessary disinfect all parts of the food rooms, failure to protect food from a risk of contamination, failure to keep foods under suitable temperature conditions, failure to maintain a high degree of personal cleanliness, contravention of a hygiene improvement notice in respect of training of food handlers and contravention of hygiene emergency prohibition order prohibiting the use of the premises for activities involving raw meat.

Following the results of microbiological samples taken of wiping cloths used in the food preparation area, it was evident that a risk of cross contamination existed between raw meat and ready-to-eat foods, presenting an imminent risk to health.

As a result the council served an emergency hygiene prohibition notice (HEPN) on Dr Stern on July 13th which banned Dr Stern from handling raw meat at the premises. The council also successfully applied to the courts and served a hygiene emergency prohibition order (HEPO) on the business. This was to reduce the risk to health arising out of the potential contamination of ready-to-eat foods with harmful bacteria commonly found on raw meat. The business was able trade as normal in other respects following the issue of the order on July 17th.

However, officers found that a customer visiting the café had bought foods made from raw meat ingredients, contrary to the requirement of the court order.

A further application was made to the magistrates’ court for a prohibition order and the café was effectively closed from July 26th.

An environmental health inspection on August 1st found the necessary improvements had been made to the café and a certificate was issued to allow the re-opening of the premises on August 2nd.

However, when checks were made again on 17 September just before the court hearing, conditions were found to still not be right. A cream cake was being kept out of refrigeration, the dishwasher was not working and critical hygiene controls had not been checked or recorded

The business has been closed since Tuesday, September 18th.

In court, Dr Stern apologised and acknowledged that he had done wrong. He couldn’t give a reason for why he had breached the prohibition order, saying he had turned some people away, but not all people. 

When sentencing the magistrates gave credit for the defendant’s early guilty plea and were mindful of the totality of the fine. 

Speaking after the court hearing, the council’s cabinet portfolio holder for environmental health, Cllr Nora Armstrong, said: “Food hygiene is incredibly important and we take matters such as this very seriously.

“We hope any food business owners reading about this case are aware of this, while we also seek to maintain customers’ confidence, so they know where they’re eating has been inspected and they’re not being put at risk.

“Public interests are being protected and I think the court’s decision to issue such a heavy fine sends out a very firm message to all businesses about the importance of good food hygiene.”

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