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Newport store owner fined over £5,000 for serious food hygiene offences

Cardiff Crown Court

A Newport food business operator was fined £5,426 after pleading guilty to serious food hygiene and safety offences.

Muhammad Afzal Malik, owner of Top Up convenience store located at 163 Corporation Road, was handed the fines at a sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court on 14 December.

Mr Malik was also ordered to pay costs of £1,500 to the council, bringing his total amount for fines and costs to £6,936. Mr Malik will also face a two-month prison sentence should he default on the repayments.

The fine followed successful enforcement action taken by Newport City Council against Mr Malik, and reflected the judgement of the court that the defendant’s risky and avoidable behaviour put members of the public at risk.

The action related to seven food hygiene and safety offences, that occurred on the 10 November 2022 and on following revisits to the business on the 22 December 2022, and 21 February 2023.

An officer from the council’s environmental health team visited Top Up Convenience Store on the 10 November 2022 to undertake a routine food hygiene inspection.  The business was open and trading when the officer arrived.

Upon inspection, the officer found evidence of:

  • A significant active mouse infestation affecting the main shop, and back food store with evidence that the infestation had been ongoing for at least a year.
  • Dead mice found in various degrees of decomposition found on glue boards and break back traps.
  • Gnawed food, including crisps and biscuits. Partially gnawed packets of Quavers were found with rodent fur and mouse droppings inside. Numerous empty packets of food below shelves, which had been moved and eaten by mice, highlighting the extent and time frame of the infestation.
  • Significant accumulations of mouse droppings, from the front to the back of the premises, at high and low level.
  • Filthy conditions, engrained dirt mixed with mouse droppings on shelves on which food was stored.
  • Dirty and unhygienic conditions across the premises.
  • Poorly maintained structure, that allow pests to enter.

On completion of the inspection, the business agreed to a voluntary closure to rectify the issues identified.

The council served the business with improvement notices and the inspection resulted in a food hygiene rating of zero – urgent improvement required. The conditions warranted further enforcement.

On further revisits to the business on 22 December 2022 and 21 February 2023, issues were also found with hot holding of cooked foods and packets of ham presented for sale past the use by dates.

This led the council to take further action against Mr Malik, resulting in a successful prosecution.

Councillor James Clarke, cabinet member for strategic planning, housing and regulation, said: “Once again, I’m pleased to see that our efforts to tackle unacceptable food hygiene standards have resulted in a successful prosecution.

“Food hygiene legislation is a key part of our integrated health protection system. It is in place to ensure businesses operate in a safe manner, avoid causing ill health, and avoid placing unnecessary burden on the NHS.

“The responsibility to maintain proper food hygiene standards falls squarely on the shoulders of the food business operator.

“It is clear from the decisions made by the court that the conditions our officers found at Top Up were unacceptable.

We will not tolerate any food business who do not engage with us or act on our improvement notices after receiving a hygiene rating of zero. We will not hesitate to take robust action where we discover such flagrant disregard for public health.”