Rat-infested Dudley takeaway boss ordered to pay £6k

A mother of three who ran a fast food restaurant infested with rats has been ordered to pay £6,000 in fines and costs.

Lixiang Ma knew rodents had gotten into the store room of Panda Paradise in New Street, Dudley, but did nothing about it, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

The 40-year-old later admitted having seen rat teeth marks on vegetables before an environmental health officer visited the premises.

The routine call followed a cockroach being found in food served from its ‘sister’ restaurant in Tipton for which she also held the lease.

The inspector ordered the immediate closure of the Dudley takeaway after finding two dead rats under the freezer in the store room and a large number of rat droppings on December 17, 2015, revealed Mr Philip Brunt, prosecuting on behalf of Dudley Council. 

He said: “The risk to health from rats is substantial and can prove fatal.”

There was an open rat bait tray, confirming Ma knew of the rodents before the visit during which refuse was found piled up in the back yard.

A rear door had also been left open, allowing easy access for rodents to the building which had food debris and grease on the floor. There was no diary to record what should have been its daily cleaning.

Mr Brunt concluded: "This was a flagrant disregard of the law. She plainly knew there was a rat infestation but had not done anything to correct that."

Panda Paradise was allowed to reopen a week later after being thoroughly cleaned and properly treated for rodent prevention, the court heard.There had been no complaint from customers before the temporary shut down.

Mr Stephen Hamblett, defending, conceded: "This was wilful blindness, in that she knew there were rats and ran the risk."

Ma sub let the restaurant to somebody else - who was not identified to the court - a month after the inspection, it was claimed.

Mr Hamblett admitted the business had still to be legally transferred and her husband remained on the payroll but maintained that Ma was now studying for a degree and hoped to become a teacher. 

The defendant, from Priory Road, Dudley and of previous good character, admitted breaking four food safety and hygiene regulations and was fined £4,000 with £2,000 costs by Judge James Burbidge QC who told her:

"The state of the store room which kept food ready for preparation for sale to the public was disgusting and entirely inappropriate."

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