A coming-of-age ceremony in Thornton Heath became memorable for all the wrong reasons when more than 200 guests fell ill.
Sivapathasundaram Premanthan, director of VP & Sons, owner of the Spiceland restaurant in London Road, Broad Green, which catered the event, appeared before Croydon magistrates (Tuesday 12) to plead guilty to a string of charges in his own name and that of the company.
Individual fines of £300 were levied against each of 20 hygiene offences – 10 for the company, 10 for Premanthan – alongside costs of £1,880 and a victim surcharge of £120, totaling £8,000.
Environmental health officers were alerted by the event’s organiser in December 2014 when a large number of guests were taken ill. Enquiries revealed that the food was produced by and delivered from Spiceland, which had been inspected just one month earlier and found to be at the highest risk rating, having a number of hygiene problems requiring immediate attention.
Officers visited the restaurant a few days after the party and noted that the kitchen walls, floor and ceiling were very dirty and damaged in several areas, failing to meet the standards required of a food business.
Kitchen staff were ignorant of basic food safety practices and were seen handling food without washing their hands before doing so. The hand wash basin could not be used as it was cluttered with dirty cloths and utensils. The freezer was overstocked, with products apparently thrown in without any order applied. The floor and walls of the walk-in chiller were dirty with food spillages and the shelving was covered in food debris. Raw meat and chicken were stored next to and directly above cooked and ready-to-eat foods, such as salads. The washing up sink was blocked, with a marked smell of sewage.
Officers gave Premanthan detailed advice and requested that several issues be addressed immediately. These included hand-washing procedures, improvements to the cleaning regime, repairs, and the restaurant’s food-safety management system. Premanthan agreed to rectify these matters.
Returning the following day and finding very little improvement, officers served two Hygiene Improvement Notices as the business was not compliant with hygiene regulations.
Six, of 10, food samples and surface swabs were found to be unsatisfactory, showing that procedures were inadequate and that food was being prepared and sold in an unsafe manner. Officers again advised Premanthan, and required immediate improvements to be made.
A return inspection in January 2015, found some effort had been made to repair and clean, but the business continued to fall short of compliance. The food safety management system was inadequate, the cleaning remained unsatisfactory and repairs had not been completed.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice
“It’s a repeated message that food producers have a duty of care to ensure that their produce and methods are clean, safe and do not present a threat to the health of their customers.
“This restaurateur, despite a number of warnings from our food safety officers, failed to ensure that right and proper hygiene standards were in place, and that his staff were aware of their obligations; now he’s paid the price in the eyes of the law.”