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11th November 2016

Two Staffordshire takeaways could face criminal prosecution after being shut down. Stafford Chippy and Szechuan House both received zero hygiene scores and were closed after investigators found mice infestations in both premises.

Fiona Sinclair looks at the steps a business needs to take to reopen.

“In order to close a food business EHO’s must consider they pose an imminent risk to public health. One of the most common reason for closure is a heavy uncontrolled pest infestation where the risk of contamination of food is not controlled e.g. food not suitable covered in pest proof containers, surfaces that may have come into contact with mice not cleaned and disinfected. As a result there is a real risk that the food which is served could be contaminated – not only by the mice, their droppings and urine but also potentially from harmful pathogenic bacteria carried on the rodents’ bodies.

“When environmental health closes a premise, they need to demonstrate the reasons for the closure. In this case an emergency prohibition notice was served by the EH department. This would have required the officers to take lots of evidence e.g. photos, droppings, sometimes even dead mice, in order to demonstrate to the courts why the premises should be closed. Prosecution will typically follow such closures due to the imminent risk to public health and the evidence gathered by EHO’s for the closure can also be used in a prosecution.

“It is usual for a prosecution to follow such closures due to imminent risk – the EH department are likely to have gathered substantial evidence which can also be used for prosecution. When a premises is closed a copy of the Emergency Prohibition notice explaining the reason for the closure will be posted on the window. Closures are often also splashed over the local news, as happened in this case.

“The premises would only be allowed to reopen when the court order is lifted. This happens when officers are satisfied there is no longer a risk to health and the owners have robustly addressed a list of remedial actions, working in close contact with the local EHO’s.

“You might be surprised to learn that businesses which have previously been closed down can often be some of the restaurants/takeaways which now have the most hygienic standards, however this isn’t always the case. Businesses may struggle to bounce back from a closure due to tarnished reputation and loss of customers. They might also struggle to gain high ratings due to low ‘confidence in management’ scores given the track record of the premises which form a third of the criteria for the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and can take a while to overcome.”


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