Hemel food business fined over £14k for poor hygiene and unnecessary suffering of invading mice

Hemel Foods Ltd and the company director were fined on Friday, March 6 but feel the charges were harsh

A food business in Hemel Hempstead has been fined £14,800 for breaching food safety, hygiene and animal welfare laws at its premises.

Image of Hemel Foods from Dacorum Borough Council

Image of Hemel Foods from Dacorum Borough Council

Hemel Foods Ltd and company director Ishrat Nasar were fined on Friday, March 6, after an investigation by Dacorum Borough Council’s Environmental Health Officers.

But owner of Hemel Foods Ltd, Ishrat Nasar, told The Gazette he feels the punishment is over the top and revealed he argued against many of the charges.

On the 11 September 2018, Environmental Health Officers visited the premises known as Hemel Foods, after receiving a complaint regarding poor food hygiene conditions and pests.

During the visit to the premises, numerous contraventions were observed by Dacorum Borough Council’s Environmental Health Officers, including failing to put in place adequate procedures to control pests and a poor level of cleanliness.

The incorrect use of glue traps was also observed resulting in the unnecessary suffering of mice.

The officers advised the business operator of the work that needed to be carried out to comply with the law but further contraventions were witnessed on four more visits to the premises.

Mr Nasar was invited to attend an interview under caution on three separate occasions but failed to attend.

Following a trial at St Albans Magistrates Court, the limited company and Mr Nasar were fined £7,400 each and were ordered to pay the full cost of the prosecution of £17,131.58, and a victim surcharge of £170 each.

Cllr Julie Banks, Dacorum Borough Council's portfolio holder for community and regulatory services, said: “We will always take action where we deem it necessary to protect the public.

"This case sends out an important message, highlighting the need for businesses to comply with food safety and hygiene laws and to take all appropriate measures in their business.”

Ishrat Nasar, owner of the business, said: "I think the council has been really harsh, we actually had a pest control contractor out before they came round.

"We had all the measures in place to control the infestation, that was not coming from our store.

"We paid thousands putting measures in store, no stock was ever damaged but there was some droppings in some corners of the store, so the contractor tried to cover all the holes to stop them getting in.

"There was a problem in the whole parade, not just us, but we are the ones who have been fined.

"Some of the charges were ridiculous, which is why we argued against them, but unfortunately I still got fined.

"I thought I had done nothing wrong, that is why I continued to fight the charges.

"We had the contractor in and the glue traps were given to us by a professional pest control contractor.

"It is recommended that the mats are checked every 12 hours, they said we should have been checking more regularly.

"Surely using poison is causing them more suffering, but I am not a professional, we just took the advice from the professionals.

"We thought we were doing the right thing, there was a number of different things used, we tried everything else before we used the glue boards, I did try and fight that charge as well.

"I was very disappointed and we did all we could, I honestly thought we were doing the right thing.

"I think the judge wanted to make an example out of us, which actually really upset me.

"We have never had an infestation before and we have not had one since. This can be very damaging to our reputation, we have always had a 5 star rating online and have always been proud of that.

"This was in 2018, there has not been an infestation problem since, we have made the recommended improvements given by the council, the fine is massive - most of it is actually the cost of the investigation by the council - but we will take it all on the chin and try to move on from this."