Thai Leisure Group, the firm that owns Thai restaurant Chaophraya, located in shopping development Liverpool One, has been fined more than £32,500 after pleading guilty to two food safety breaches.
The fine, on top of which the company also had to pay £4,207 in costs to the council and a £120 victim surcharge, came after an unannounced inspection by Environmental Health Officers (EHO) in March 2016, during which they discovered extensive mouse droppings and multiple dead mice, as well as grease and food debris.
The firm has accepted the charge and stressed that it has since taken action to improve standards at the restaurant, which was subject of that it called an "isolated, localised incident".
Among the problems the EHOs discovered were: extensive mouse droppings to the rear of a fridge, in the main kitchen, and on shelving in a food preparation area; a dead mouse the area housing the motor of a fridge; and two glue boards with a number of decomposing mice attached within the ceiling void above a food preparation area within the kitchen.
There was also a build-up of grease on the cabling and surfaces of the ceiling tiles and various uncovered foods were on display and in various stages of preparation in the main food preparation areas of the ground floor kitchen.
The EHOs also noted a build-up of food debris and grease on floor surfaces and various equipment surfaces in the kitchen. They said that the build-up of food debris within the kitchen was also "indicative of a lack of effective, routine cleaning" and had the effect of attracting pests to food preparation areas.
After the inspection, the restaurant was closed immediately for a deep clean due to what the EHOs deemed a public health risk.
Officers were provided with an audit report dated 29 January, 2016 from Southall Audits, an independent consultancy company instructed by Chaophraya. Southall Audits noted that it was "very concerned" that the pest issue was "escalating" and warned that without suitable pest proofing and cleaning "if an EHO was to find the evidence we found of rodent activity during our visit, there would be no question that the business would be closed and subsequently prosecuted".
The restaurant was allowed to re-open on 22 March and was subsequently awarded the lowest possible food hygiene rating score of zero out of five, indicating that urgent improvement was necessary.
Councillor Steve Munby, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, said: "The Thai Leisure Group has received a very substantial fine which reflects the extreme seriousness of these charges.
"This case sends out a strong message that substandard hygiene in any food outlet across the city will not be tolerated, and our experienced team of environmental health officers are prepared to prosecute any business who puts their customers at risk."
Thai Leisure Group managing director Ian Leigh said: "We wholly accept the charge for this isolated, localised incident in Liverpool. When this incident took place some 18 months ago conditions were unacceptable. We took immediate action, voluntarily shutting the restaurant and conducting a comprehensive internal review, which led to a series of changes. We are now satisfied that the site meets our stringent standards and it has since been awarded a 4-star rating by Liverpool council and two independent audits with 90-plus per cent scores."
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