Extra large pizza – hold the cockroaches!

Wimbledon Magistrates Court found a Merton pizza trader guilty this month following an investigation by Merton Council’s Environmental Health department.

Mr Rashid Ahmed, who traded at Pizzarella in Kingston Road, Raynes Park, pleaded guilty to six offences – two under the Food Safety Act 1990 for contaminated food and four under the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995. He was convicted on all offences and received 100 hours community service and full costs of £660 were awarded to Merton Council. The business has since changed hands.

An Environmental Health Officer from Merton Council visited the premises in December 2002 in response to complaints about cockroaches at the premises and poor hygiene standards. The officer found evidence of a German cockroach infestation throughout the food premises and dead cockroaches were found above food preparation areas and close to food containers.

The visit also revealed extremely poor hygiene conditions at the premises, including:
– Little evidence of hand washing – the washbasin was defective and there was no soap or hygienic hand drying facilities available at the basin.
– Floors, walls and window ledges were dirty and food splashes were adhered to the surfaces
– Numerous items of equipment in contact with food were filthy, including the refrigerated pizza cabinet, can opener, the walk in chiller, the wire mesh belt to the pizza oven, food containers and a plastic colander
– There was no light in the walk in chiller and the handle was missing
– The floor to the rear of the premises was in poor repair
– High risk food, such as cooked meats and prepared salads, weren’t stored in the fridge
– Numerous items of food were being stored in open rusty cans
– Foods that were rotten and heavily contaminated with mould were found in the pizza refrigerator cabinet.

In addition the staff at the premises had not received any food hygiene training and were left to work unsupervised with little instruction to enable them to work safely and hygienically. A hazard analysis system was not in place at the premises and staff had little appreciation of how to control food safety hazards.

Mr Ahmed complied with two of the three Improvement Notices served on him before the business changed hands. It appears that the German cockroach infestation has now been eradicated. The new proprietor is working with the Council to continue to improve hygiene standards at the premises.

Ian Murrell, Merton Council’s Commercial and Trading Standards Manager, said: “We are