The owner of a Chinese takeaway has been jailed for running an “unspeakably dirty” kitchen while already being banned from operating a food businesses.
A judge said if members of the public had seen the state of the kitchens at the premises he was sure nobody would have used it.
Swansea Crown Court heard concerns had first been raised about the Grace Chinese takeaway in Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire , as far back as 2015. Then in January 2018 heath inspectors made a routine check of the business and found a catalogue of problems.
Martha Smith-Higgins, prosecuting, said the officers found grease and dirt in the kitchens, a broken fridge full of dirty water being used to store ingredients, issues with food storage conditions and labelling, and a dirty sink and chopping board.
She said there was also an absence of proper record-keeping by the owner, Zhi Zhao, and when inspectors picked dishes at random from the menu and asked the boss about any possible allergens in the ingredients he was unable to answer.
The court heard 62-year-old Zhao made some attempts to clean the premises as a result of the visit but the takeaway was given a zero for its food hygiene rating.
A further visit in the following March showed some improvements but there were still problems with the way ingredients were being stored.
Miss Smith-Higgins said it then emerged Zhao had been banned for life from operating a food business after being jailed in 2010 for a string of hygiene offences at a restaurant in Kent. He was invited to an interview with health inspectors but he did not attend.
Zhao, now of Argyle Street, Sandfields, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to food standards and record-keeping offences, failing to comply with improvement notices, and operating a food business while prohibited when he appeared in the dock alongside a Mandarin translator for sentence on Monday.
The court heard the defendant has previous food hygiene convictions and in 2010 was jailed for 28 days and made the subject of an indefinite prohibition order at Maidstone Crown Court.
Craig Jones, for Zhao, said his client had wrongly thought his food business banning order had been for two years rather than for life and said he would not have opened a new restaurant had he been aware of the prohibition. He pointed out that Pembrokeshire council also initially seemed unaware of the existence of the prohibition order.
Mr Jones said it was accepted the conditions in the takeaway were “wholly unsatisfactory” but said there had been no complaints from members of the public and it appeared no harm had been caused to anyone who had bought food there.
He added the takeaway had not been very successful and Zhao “made very little profit, if any, from his offending”.
Judge Geraint Walters said the kitchen had been “unspeakably dirty” and said the defendant had “no concept” of how to run a food business properly. He said food hygiene regulations were not in place for “bureaucratic reasons” but to ensure the safety of the public.
The judge said: “I have not a shadow of a doubt if the public had seen the state of that kitchen then there would not have been a single customer. It is hard to imagine anything quite so dirty.”
Giving the defendant a one-third discount for his guilty pleas the judge sentenced him to four months in prison. The defendant will serve half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community. Zhao will also have to pay £1,000 towards the prosecution costs of £3,850.16.
The judge said there had to a better system for logging those who were banned from running food businesses to ensure they were no able to move elsewhere in the UK and open a new venture.