Ex-takeaway owner escapes jail over ‘filthy’ conditions at shop

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THE former owner of a cockroach-infested takeaway has been given a suspended prison sentence and banned from taking part in a food business for ten years.

A judge said the filthy conditions at Naz’s Kebab House and Grill Centre in Thomas Street South, Halifax, posed a real risk to public health and Mohammed Azam’s offending had to be marked by a three-month prison term.

But Judge Colin Burn suspended the jail sentence for a year and told Azam, 39, that he could make amends by doing 250 hours unpaid work.

Bradford Crown Court heard that in January 2012 the takeaway got a zero-rating by inspectors and when a pest controller visited in July that year he found a small number of adult cockroaches.

The infestation was thought to have started in April 2012, but when the pest controller returned a few days later to check monitoring traps Azam told him they had been thrown out by a cleaner.

Prosecutor Sobia Ahmed said Azam called the pest controller back to the premises in October 2012 after saying that the infestation was “quite bad” and he again put monitoring traps in the takeaway and the flat above.

A week later he found over 3,100 cockroaches in traps in the takeaway with a further 3,884 in the flat.

Miss Ahmed said the pest controller described it as one of the worst cockroach infestations he had seen, but when he told Azam that he should close the premises for three days to allow a spraying treatment he said he couldn’t afford to shut for that length of time.

The cockroach-filled traps were removed, but just three days later environmental health officers from Calderdale Council carried out an unannounced food hygiene inspection.

Miss Ahmed said the premises were believed to be open with members of staff preparing food and cooked food in the display units.

“It became clear very quickly that not only was the takeaway in a filthy condition but moreover there was an extensive cockroach infestation which presented an imminent risk to human health,” said Miss Ahmed.

“All three experienced environmental health officers confirmed this was the worst infestation of its kind they had ever seen.”

The new traps contained hundreds, if not thousands, of cockroaches, with dead insects in a food display unit and live cockroaches on the metal framework of the food preparation area.

There were dead cockroaches in the fat collection trap of the kebab cooker and live cockroaches in soap containers and on a utensil bowl.

Miss Ahmed said there was a general build up of filth and grease the kitchen and officers served an emergency prohibition notice on Azam, shutting down the premises.

Azam, of King Cross Road, Halifax, was sentenced yesterday after he admitted nine breaches under the Food Hygiene Regulations and Judge Burn was told that back in 2009 he was fined £6,200 for 20 food safety breaches at the same takeaway premises.

The latest offences included failing to ensure that adequate procedures were in place to control pests.

The court heard Azam was allowed to re-open the takeaway in November 2012 but was now unemployed.

During the investigation into the state of the takeaway Azam said he had sold the business on to two other men in September 2012, but at the time of the visit by environmental health officers he was still the registered food business operator.

Azam’s barrister Soheil Khan said his client expressed remorse and thankfully there were no reports of anyone suffering any illness as a result of the offending.

Azam was also ordered to pay £4,000 towards the legal and investigative costs at £100 a month.

The council’s head of housing and environment, Mark Thompson, said: “This case sends a clear message that we take breaches of hygiene standards very seriously and won’t hesitate to take action.”