Council is demanding more powers to tackle dirty kitchens
Food businesses in the borough are being closed for breaching hygiene laws at the rate of nearly one each month.
In 2016 there were eleven restaurants, take-aways, cafes and food shops forced to close by court orders issued following hygiene inspections carried out by Waltham Forest Council.
Many had infestations of pests such as cockroaches or mice, but were able to reopen within a few weeks after proving that they had successfully cleaned up their premises.
An Echo investigation of the businesses that failed hygiene inspections last year found that seven out of eleven had successfully reopened – despite all suffering large declines in trade.
At Orient Kebab House in Leyton High Road, closed in October after inspectors found cockroaches under a fridge, owner Heroon Liaqat claimed the council had been unfair. “They said our chicken was off because it looked green, but this is just the colour of the peri peri sauce we use. I made a complaint about it.
“We bought new fridges and now we are cleaning everyday, but because of what the council said our customers don’t want to buy chicken anymore.”
In Church Road, a big clean up was underway at Delicatissen 379 a few weeks after it had been forced to close in November upon discovery of both cockroaches and mice. A friend of the owner, Samir Nacim, said it was due to reopen before the new year. He blamed the failed inspection on a neighbouring takeway and told the Echo: “Next door they are so dirty, but I guess rules are rules; we are taking it seriously.”
Maamala’s in Hoe Street, Walthamstow, was until recently one of the most popular Indian restaurants in the borough. But inspectors found cockroaches in the kitchen last September and it closed for one week. Sunil Mahadevam, who works there, said: “Before we were cleaning under the fridge once a month, now we do it everyday. Our trade has gone down 50 percent since it happened.”
Sunil also blamed a neighbouring food business and showed the Echo an image of a dead mouse he had found behind the company’s premises: “What can we do about that?”
Following the high number of failed hygiene inspections last year the council is calling for ‘stronger powers’ to help combat filthy food outlets that ‘put the health of residents at risk’.
Councillor Clyde Loakes, cabinet member for environment, said: “We want our residents to be able to buy food from local businesses safe in the knowledge that it has been prepared in a safe and hygienic environment. That’s why we will continue to come down hard on businesses that put their customers’ health at risk.
“We understand residents’ frustration when we close a food business only for it to reopen a short time later, but the law states that we cannot keep them closed once they have made the improvements required of them.
“We will keep doing all we can and will look to prosecute serious offenders, but I am also going to be pressing government to give local authorities stronger powers to close down filthy food businesses for good.”
The council is proposing a new licensing system for all food businesses which would be renewed annually and include an annual inspection as part of the cost. Currently, food businesses do not require a licence before they open and inspections are held sporadically. There are around 2,000 registered food businesses in Waltham Forest, but only 800 hygiene inspections each year.
Residents can check food hygiene ratings for local businesses on the Food Standards Agency website.