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Chinese restaurant fined over food poisoning

Case launched after dozens fell ill

Owners of a Chinese restaurant which was inspected after a group of police officers and dozens of other people fell ill with suspected food poisoning face fines and costs of more than £50,000.

Environmental Health officers found mouse droppings and bacteria including salmonella at the busy Chuen Cheng Ku restaurant near Chinatown in central London’s Soho district.

Their checks came just over a week after Westminster Council received reports of more than 60 people falling ill after visiting the restaurant on the same day.

They included a group of police officers on a day trip to London, 57 Japanese students and seven trainee environmental health officers.

Poor hygiene

City of Westminster Magistrates Court heard that inspectors visited the restaurant on 21 December, 2005 and found evidence of poor cleaning and hygiene.

Clare Huntley, prosecuting for the council, said the environmental health workers found mouse droppings in food containers, and discovered dirt and grease in many parts of the kitchens.

In one food preparation area waste was found ‘awaiting collection’ while there was also a lack of hot water and hand sanitizers, she said.

Samples of food and swabs from various parts of the restaurant’s kitchens were taken away to be analysed.

Salmonella bacteria

Salmonella bacteria was found on three items including on an egg whisk, she told the court.

An analysis of some black bean sauce also found it had contained a species of bacillus bacteria, Ms Huntley said.

Although over the following weeks hygiene improved at the restaurant, its owners Peter Au and Peter Chu – and their company Gentin Ltd – were all charged with offences under food hygiene regulations.

The two men and the company admitted seven charges each under food standards legislation and were ordered to pay a total of £57,628 including costs.

Pest control

Robert O’Sullivan, defending, told the court that the owners of the restaurant had made every effort since the inspection to give their business, in Wardour Street, a clean bill of health.

The court heard that various checks by environmental health officers after the inspection in December 2005 had found that improvements had been made to the required standard.

Mr O’Sullivan added that the restaurant now had regular visits from pest controllers and there had been no reports of food poisoning cases arising from what was found during the inspection.

But passing down fines of £17,500 to Mr Au, Mr Chu and their company, chairman of the bench Peter King said: ‘People’s health could well have been put at risk because of the poor conditions in the kitchens under your control.’

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