Following an investigation by Shared Regulatory Services (SRS), two directors involved in the operation of the Swaddesh restaurant in Kenfig Hill were sentenced at Cardiff Magistrates Court on 27 November.
On October 4, Mohammed Imon Rahman and Mustak Ahmed pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006.
In May 2022, SRS received a complaint from the public reporting that rats had been seen inside the Swaddesh restaurant, which at that point had a Food Hygiene Rating Scheme score of three, deeming its hygiene standards as satisfactory.
When officers visited the premises they discovered an active pest infestation, with notable lack of effective pest control procedures in place. Rat droppings were found in the front dining room of the restaurant, in the back storerooms where food equipment and open food items, such as potatoes and onions, were stored – posing a high risk of direct contamination. Pest access points that were discovered by officers should have been identified through routine pest control checks.
The general hygiene and cleanliness throughout the premises were also poor, with visible food debris and dirt under equipment, as well as dirty hand contact surfaces. Food preparation equipment was found to be unclean, with some equipment, such as chopping boards, being badly worn and damaged, but still in use by staff.
Another aspect of particular concern was the lack of controls in place for personal hygiene. The business handled raw foods, such as chicken and lamb, together with ready to eat food, such as fresh salads. There was no hand soap in the main kitchen or staff WC, only hand sanitiser – demonstrating a lack of understanding by staff of the risk posed to food safety. Evidently, there was no food management safety system in place.
As a result of the inspection findings, the restaurant’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme score was downgraded to zero, indicating that urgent improvement was required.
In light of the inspection findings, the business voluntarily closed to undertake a deep clean of the premises, fix all pest access points, and eradicate the infestation. When revisited six days later, it was found that the business had made significant improvements and the rat infestation had been eradicated. However, there was still no hand soap on the premises – only when soap supplies were replenished was the voluntary closure notice revoked.
At the time of the offences, the food business was operated by two companies: Swaddesh Dinner Limited, whose Director was Mohammed Imon Rahman, and SR 72 Limited, whose Director was Mustak Ahmed. The investigation became complicated by claims that Mr Ahmed and his company had taken over responsibility for running the business from Mr Rahman, with the latter initially identifying himself as merely the restaurant manager.
In the court case, District Judge Harmes considered the fact that both Mr Rahman and Mr Ahmed had evidenced that they are both on benefits, and also gave each of them credit for their guilty pleas. As a result, Mustak Ahmed was fined a total of £235 (including credit) and ordered to pay costs of £125, as well as a victim surcharge of £95.
Mohammed Imon Rahman was fined a total of £380 (including credit), ordered to pay costs of £250, as well as a victim surcharge of £152. His sentence has also permanently prohibited him from participating in the management of any food business in the future. District Judge Harmes commented that there had clearly been an active rodent infestation in the Swaddesh restaurant which posed a potential risk to the public. He continued to say that the person clearly responsible for the business was Mr Rahman, although Mr Ahmed could be described as having had his fingerprints on the business too.
There was no separate penalty for either of the companies, the Swaddesh Dinner Limited or SR 72 Limited, with District Judge Harmes noting that both were no longer trading and that the restaurant was now closed.
Following the court case, Councillor Rhys Goode, Cabinet Member for Housing, Planning and Regeneration, and Chair of the Shared Regulatory Services Joint Committee, said:
“We are committed to ensuring that standards of food hygiene remain high across the county borough. This is crucial for the wellbeing of residents and visitors, and to safeguard the reputation of all law-abiding food businesses in the area.
“We welcome the fines imposed upon the two directors responsible for the restaurant, as well as the prohibition of Mr Rahman from managing any food establishments in the future.
“The officers’ findings at the Swaddesh restaurant provide a stark reminder of the importance of food hygiene controls and the consequences when businesses get it wrong or fail to take responsibility for their premises. The council, through its Shared Regulatory Services, will use the full range of food hygiene interventions when tackling poorly performing food businesses and the risk they pose to the public.”