Green Gardens Valley Import & Export Ltd operates a warehouse in Park Royal from where they import, store and distribute ambient products from abroad to supermarkets and retailers across London.
When food hygiene officers from Ealing Council carried out a routine inspection in October last year, they found the warehouse infested with rats. Rodent droppings were discovered throughout the premises, including on food, on containers storing food and in boxes of spices as well as gnawed food containers.
Officers immediately served a hygiene emergency prohibition notice, which required the business to stop using the premises until the imminent risk to public health was removed. This decision was ratified by a court hearing days later when Ealing Magistrates Court issued a hygiene emergency prohibition order, preventing the premises from being used until measures were put in place to address the problem.
The business gave evidence to show that they had complied with the order, which was then lifted, allowing the premises to continue to be used.
But when officers returned in May 2021, more evidence of rodent activity was found and standards of cleaning in the premises were also notably poor. Due to the poor level of compliance with food hygiene laws and the risks that the business posed to consumer health, Ealing Council initiated a prosecution against Green Garden Valley and its owner, Mr Wissam Mounzer.
On 14 December 2021 at Ealing Magistrates Court, Mr Mounzer pleaded guilty to six offences, for failing to put in place procedures to control pests, failing to protect food from contamination and for failing to keep the premises in good repair and condition.
He was fined £3,000, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £190, plus the council’s court costs of £2,000. Green Gardens Valley was also fined £3,000 and £190 victim surcharge.
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for decent living incomes said: “This case demonstrates that the council’s food safety team will take robust action against businesses that disregard the basic hygiene requirements and allow products to potentially become unsafe.
“The images shown in court were awful and business owners have a duty of care to their customers.
“Many food businesses that are key to international and national food chains decide to locate their establishments in Ealing due to its great transport links and access to a great workforce. Thankfully, many Ealing businesses are good employers and work hard to ensure they maintain high standards of cleanliness, and we will continue to help them thrive and trade.
“But on rare occasions such as this, when a food business puts people’s health at risk, we will not hesitate to take action.”