The owners and manager of British Raj Express in Royston have been ordered to pay £7,000 for food hygiene failures.

Environmental health officers from North Herts Council discovered the offences during routine visits to the restaurant at 73 Kneesworth Street last year.

Royston Crow: The plate used to store poppadoms The plate used to store poppadoms (Image: North Herts Council)

Although they drew food hygiene issues to the attention of the owner and manager, no improvements were found on subsequent inspections.

Romeo & Juliet Limited, which owns British Raj Express, and manager Muhammad Ali Safwaan Choudhury pleaded guilty to a number of food hygiene offences on January 12 at Stevenage Magistrates' Court.

All photos were taken at the time of the inspections in 2023.

Royston Crow: Rat droppings at British Raj ExpressRat droppings at British Raj Express (Image: North Herts Council)

The issues included:

  • Not keeping the premises clean - areas below equipment within the kitchen were greasy and collecting debris including rat droppings, dirty tea towels around the kitchen were being used for cleaning, and a light switch within the dry store area was dirty which could contaminate hands.
  • Poor storage of waste and control of pests – waste piled up in an uncontrolled manner with the back door left open allowing access to pests, rodent monitoring boxes not kept in good condition, inadequate hand washing facilities for food handlers – lack of hot and cold water, soap and hand drying materials and poor drainage – the wash hand basin was so slow draining that food handlers could not effectively wash their hands due to the inability to clean them in fresh water.
  • Poor practice by food handlers – correct protective white coats and aprons were not always worn by workers in the kitchen, including the head chef.
  • Poor food storage and cross contamination – food kept uncovered under sink, ready to eat poppadoms stored on a plate covered in greasy, damaged foil, food in fridge with no stated shelf life and no method to ensure ready to eat food was being stored in containers that had not previously been used to store raw meat/fish.

A sentencing hearing has been arranged for the end of May, but the defendants agreed to pay the council's costs of £7,252.86.

Cllr Sean Prendergast, the council's executive member for housing and environmental health, said: "Environmental health is a vital service that some people may not realise we provide, or that can get easily lost among other frontline services such as waste and recycling, and planning.

Royston Crow: A dirty light switch at the restaurantA dirty light switch at the restaurant (Image: North Herts Council)

"But we have a team of Environmental Health Officers who carry out routine inspections and investigate food poisoning complaints at food businesses across the district. 

"This case shows how important their work is to ensure residents can enjoy their favourite, well-earned takeaway or meal out safely."

Cllr Dave Winstanley, deputy executive member for housing and environmental health, added: "Our Environmental Health team provides information for the Food Standards Agency’s 'scores on the doors' scheme, rating food hygiene at every café, pub, restaurant, takeaway and delivery outlet in North Herts. 

Royston Crow: Food kept under the sink at the restaurantFood kept under the sink at the restaurant (Image: North Herts Council)

"We also provide food hygiene training courses for new staff to help food businesses meet their legal training responsibilities."

The next food safety and hygiene training course takes place on February 28.