Shropshire Star

Inside the filthy Telford takeaway run by an owner 'in denial about hygiene'

Photos have been released showing the disgusting state of a takeaway run by an owner "in denial about hygiene".

Dirty, cardboard-covered work surfaces at Momma's Pizzas in Oakengates. Photo: Telford & Wrekin Council

Ziaddin Choudury, who turned 80 earlier this month, narrowly avoided jail when he appeared at Shrewsbury Crown Court on November 29.

Choudury handed a seven-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, and banned from running food premises again after admitting breaching food hygiene laws relating to Momma's Pizzas in Market Street, Oakengates.

The court heard that problems had been picked up by hygiene officers as far back as 2011, but it wasn't until 2018, when a complaint was made by a member of the public, that health hazards including piles of mouldy dough, a tin can opener with food on it, unclean equipment and use of cardboard for work surfaces were found.

Telford & Wrekin Council has released photos of some of the hazards officers found. These include mouldy food, dirty cardboard on top of cookers, unwrapped raw chicken being kept in a sink and raw meat being kept in a fridge that registered 15.2C. It should not have been stored in temperatures above 8C.

After the conviction, the authority said it was delighted to help secure the conviction, however faced questions from the public about why it took so long, given the first problems were picked up 11 years ago.

Momma's Pizza. Photo: Google

A council spokesperson said there was "specific legal criteria" to meet "if a food business is to be closed down", but decided to bring a case to stop Choudhury from running the takeaway, or any other food business in the country, following the inspection in August 2018.

“The case went to magistrates court in April 2019 but Mr Choudhury used his legal right to ask for the case to be heard a crown court," they added.

“The delay in securing the prosecution was then in waiting for a crown court hearing date to become available – a process which was severely impacted by the Covid pandemic.

“The Environmental Health Team have been determined to bring the case to a successful conclusion and are pleased with the outcome of the case and Mr. Choudhury’s conviction."

Jane Sarginson, prosecuting, said Environmental Health Officers found Choudury with three employees when they visited in August 2018. One had no training in food safety and there was no food safety certificate.

"One had to be reminded on several occasions to wash his hands," said Ms Sarginson.

Raw chicken in the sink at Momma's Pizza. Photo: Telford & Wrekin Council

Officials found three containers of out-of-date coleslaw dated July 2018, fajitas that had started to grow mould, and 12-day old stale dough in plastic bags.

They also found raw chicken in a 'filthy' double sink, near a board that was used to chop salad and posed a "risk of cross contamination".

Officials also found shredded chicken stored at 16.2C when it was meant to be kept not above 8C.

Ms Sarginson said it was "risking the development of pathogens harmful to humans".

The same was found for burgers which officials found to be kept at 15.2C.

Raw burgers were found in a fridge that read 15.2C. Photo: Telford & Wrekin Council

The prosecutor added that electricity had been switched off at night to "save money" and this led to fridges defrosting.

Among dirty equipment found on the premises was a microwave and a tin opener with food residue.

Choudury was also accused of using cardboard on surfaces, which cannot be cleaned.

When he was interviewed in November 2018 Choudury blamed issues on an employee who had left the business. He said that the coleslaw had been for himself and not the public. The fajitas had been an employee's and he had "forgot that they were there", he said.

Choudury pleaded guilty to five breaches of the regulations, including failure to keep a food premises clean and maintained in good repair and condition, allowing unsafe food to be stored on the business premises, failure to store food at the correct temperature and failure to protect food against contamination.

Moudly food found at Momma's Pizzas in Oakengates. Photo: Telford & Wrekin Council

Telford & Wrekin Council wanted to get back nearly £24,000 in court costs over the case, but recorder Anthony Warner accepted that there was little chance of them getting all that back. He imposed costs of £500 to be paid at a rate of £40 a month.

"Although the risk was serious, and people were certainly at risk of suffering food poisoning, there have been no reports of anyone being ill," said Recorder Warner, accepting that he posed little risk of harm or offending in future.

In sentencing Choudury, Recorder Warner said: "You appear really to be in denial the importance of hygiene. These are very serious matters that go back a long way."

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