National retailer Martin McColl Ltd has been fined £100,000 after Harlow Council successfully prosecuted the company for multiple food hygiene offences at its Fishers Hatch store in Harlow.
The retailer, which has around 1,600 stores and newsagents across the UK, was fined after a hearing last week on 6 December 2018 at Colchester Magistrates Court.
The company pleaded guilty to three charges under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013. As well as a fine, the company will pay Harlow Council’s costs of around £17,000.
In July 2017 a Senior Environmental Health Officer from the Council carried out a routine food hygiene inspection of the Fishers Hatch store. During the inspection, the bain-marie used for heating hot dogs and the oven used for baking pies, pastries, bread and other food for public sale were both in a filthy condition. Both were covered in grease and full of burnt and greasy food deposits and the bottom of the bain-marie was full of greasy water. The base to the milk fridge was encrusted with dried milk residue.
Staff also did not have access to appropriate hand washing facilities to use before and after handling open food. Refrigerated food such as chicken wraps, sandwiches, sausage rolls and cartons of fruit juice were being stored at a temperature in excess of the legal maximum of 8°C. This control of temperature is essential in restricting the growth in numbers of food poisoning bacteria.
At the time of the inspection the store was issued with a food hygiene rating of 0. This is the lowest possible rating and identifies that urgent improvement is necessary.
In passing sentence the judge determined that the business was highly culpable, largely because the company did not sufficiently address similar failings that had been identified by the Environmental Health Officer in May 2016 following a complaint made by a member of the public. The judge noted that the Council had made significant efforts to work with the company to secure compliance and that the remedial action needed was neither complicated nor costly to implement.
Jane Greer, Head of Community Wellbeing, said:
“Customers using the store were at serious risk of getting food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses as a result of eating items on public sale. Our Environmental Health Team uncovered a number of food hygiene offences, which raised serious concerns, and were among some of the worst witnessed by an officer in Harlow for a national food store chain.
“Every day our Environmental Health Officers work diligently to protect residents from harm. We will always take all the steps necessary, including working with our own Legal Team to start court action if required, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents.”
The company made representations to the court that they have taken steps to resolve the issues and have committed to a full refurbishment of the Fishers Hatch store in early 2019.
Harlow Council’s Environmental Health Team regulates food hygiene compliance with the aim of preventing and reducing food borne illness. It does this through advice, inspection and enforcement.
The Council takes part in the Food Standards Agency's (FSA's) national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Food hygiene ratings for businesses in Harlow can be found at: http://ratings.food.gov.uk/authority-search/en-GB/%5E/%5E/%5E/0/116/%5E/1/1/10