Published: 18:06, 08 April 2019
| Updated: 09:40, 09 April 2019
A Chinese takeaway owner has been banned from running a restaurant after a string of hygiene and safety breaches including a diner finding a wing nut in crispy seaweed.
David Wen, owner of Happy Times in London Road, Larkfield, was today told by magistrates he could no longer manage his business.
Earlier this year the 52-year-old pleaded guilty to selling food not of the nature demanded by the purchaser, as well as charges of failing to keep food premises clean and maintained, failing to clean and disinfect equipment and failing to protect food against contamination.
He also faced a charge of continuing to use a vegetable chopping machine made dangerous by the lack of a guard to prevent fingers from reaching its moving parts.
The restaurateur has managed the eatery since 2008 but the court heard he had only twice managed to earn a food hygiene rating as high as three out of five.
Most of the charges relate to two inspections in February and June last year, while the wing nut was discovered in July.
Environmental health officers described sites of overflowing bins, flies, extractor unit leaking grease, dirty food containers, and mouldy food from their visits.
There was also no disinfectant on the site.
Simon Jones, prosecuting on behalf of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, said: "This was not the first time Mr Wen had encountered officers from environmental health and each time they left him with a visit sheet so he would have had foresight when he was told about the problems and I think in my submission he carried in running his business regardless of being told.
"I think what he has done is just ignored what he has been told and that's why I say his culpability is high" - prosecutor Simon Jones
"I think what he has done is just ignored what he has been told and that's why I say his culpability is high.
"There was no serious effect in an individual or widespread food poisoning but there could have been poisoning and that in the worst situation could lead to death.
"We're not talking about that but the potential is there in the way Mr Wen has run his business."
A more recent inspection on April 4 revealed that the situation had been improved, the dangerous chopping machine was removed and steps had been taken to improve hygeine, but there were still some issues.
"We have little confidence, looking over the last 10 years, that the improvement is going to last."
However Wen's legal representative, who wanted to be named only as Mr Lan told, the court that Wen had been visited by a food safety auditor, Sammy Lee, who observed the restaurant and gave guidance.
Mr Lee addressed the court to say he would have given Happy Times a two or three out of five if he were to award a food hygiene rating.
"It shows that at least he is trying to rectify his problems," said Mr Lan.
"He needs help rather than punishment. I think he needs more assistance with the right guidance and with the right help he can address the concerns.
"I think the prohibition order should not be granted and he should be given a second chance."
He also argued that the prohibition order would not only affect Wen but the livelihoods of his three employees.
However, magistrates decided a hygiene prohibition order would be imposed, banning Wen from managing a food business.
"You have consistently demonstrated that you are not in control of your business and you are putting the health and safety of your customers and employees at risk" - Magistrate Jeff Owen
Chairman of the Bench Jeff Owen said: "Over the last 10 years we have heard that you have consistently demonstrated that you are not in control of your business and you are putting the health and safety of your customers and employees at risk."
For the offences of failing to keep food premises clean and maintained, failing to clean and disinfect equipment and failing to protect food against contamination, Wen was ordered to pay £1,000 each.
The charges of using the dangerous chopping machine and for serving a wing nut in crispy seaweed were punished with £3,000 fines respectively while Wen was also told he must pay £4,452 in costs to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.
On top of that he was ordered to pay a £170 victim surcharge.