Substantial fine for takeaway bosses responsible for food poisoning outbreak

Nottingham City Council

The owners of a takeaway whose poor hygiene practices led to over a hundred people suffering the effects of food poisoning have been issued with a legal bill of over £50,000.

Owners of the Khyber Pass restaurant on Gregory Boulevard, Mohammad Abdul Basit and Amjad Bhatti, appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on September 23rd after earlier pleading guilty to a number of breaches of food hygiene regulations. This included selling food unfit for human consumption; inadequate personal cleanliness of food workers; and inadequate hand washing facilities and drainage.

The pair were also both handed a four-month jail term, suspended for 12 months. They were fined £200 per victim – a total of £28,400 – and face court costs of £25,700. They were each also ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid community work.

A rare strain of Ecoli – believed to be only the second outbreak of its kind in Europe – was discovered by food inspectors who shut down the Hyson Green takeaway in June 2014.

An investigation by Nottingham City Council’s Food and Health and Safety team led to the discovery that the food poisoning organism responsible was Enteroinvasive Ecoli (EIEC). EIEC is only found in the human gut and so inspectors concluded that those people affected by the outbreak must have eaten food prepared at Khyber Pass that was contaminated with human faeces.

The Food and Health & Safety team was notified of the suspected food poisoning outbreak on June 26 last year. Seven patients had presented to Accident and Emergency at Queens Medical Centre with symptoms of diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, with six admitted for treatment. A connection was established between the patients and the Khyber Pass restaurant 48 Gregory Boulevard, Hyson Green, Nottingham.

The council’s Outbreak Plan was initiated and two Environmental Health investigating officers and two sampling officers visited the Khyber Pass the same day. Food samples were taken for examination. A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice was served the same day to close the food outlet immediately. A Magistrates’ Court Order was subsequently obtained to keep the premises closed. An Outbreak Control Team was initiated involving City Council Environmental Health Officers, Public Health England and their associated laboratory specialists.

By June 27, the service was aware of 13 cases linked to the food outlet, including children being treated in Paediatric Intensive Care for multiple organ failure including renal failure. E.coli was suspected at this point.
Following a press release issued by the City Council on June 27, more cases came to light, with 142 cases in total eventually reported to the Food and Health & Safety Team. Some patients suffered long-term health impacts, with ongoing symptoms 30 days after the onset of illness.

After extensive laboratory analysis of faecal specimens from patients, EIEC was isolated in 24 samples which included four of the food handlers working at the Khyber Pass. Laboratory examination of food samples taken by the investigating team isolated the same strain of EIEC in lettuce prepared by food workers at the restaurant.

Nottingham City Council’s Food and Health and Safety Team Leader Paul Dales said: “This was a significant and serious food poisoning outbreak affecting a large number of people, some of whom developed severe symptoms. It’s fortunate there were no fatalities, as this is a strain of Ecoli rarely found in the developed world, this being only the second confirmed outbreak in Europe. It’s clear that hand-washing practices by some workers were wholly inadequate and this led to food becoming contaminated.

“Decisive and swift action by Environmental Health Officers to close the food outlet ensured no more people were infected by EIEC. We will always take action, including prosecution, to ensure people eating out in Nottingham are safe and those operating food outlets are clear about what their responsibilities are.”

Responding to the sentence handed down by the court, Paul added: “It is a thoughtful and purposeful judgement, in that it is giving compensation to those people who were affected. The judge made the point that complying with food hygiene standards is not simply red tape, it is important, and anyone involved in the food industry should take it seriously and follow the rules and advice of food health officers.”

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