Published Wednesday, 7th December 2022

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council was awarded full costs of over £6,300 at Guildford Magistrates Court, and the business owning the Lee Garden Takeaway in Horley received substantial fines.

The fines, totalling £20,000, were for repeated failure to comply with food safety and hygiene regulations.  

Upholding high standards of food safety compliance

Cllr Natalie Bramhall, Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services says: “Protecting the public and upholding high standards across the borough is a vital part of the Council’s food safety responsibilities. Prosecution is a very severe last resort, but it is important that the Council can take this final step to make sure everyone can eat out safely with confidence. The Council takes a robust approach, including legal action against businesses that persistently fail to comply.

“The substantial fine of £20,000 indicates the seriousness of the case based on the thorough, dedicated and collaborative work of the Council’s Environmental Health and Legal teams.  I hope the Lee Garden takeaway improves under new management and I encourage residents and visitors to find out more about food safety on our website and check out the local scores in the National Food Hygiene Rating scheme.”

After continued poor standards – legal action against zero rated takeaway

The Council’s Environmental Health team regularly inspect restaurants, takeaways, cafes and other places that serve food to make sure that vital hygiene standards are followed and that it’s safe for customers to buy food. The team always try to work together with owners, managers and their staff to educate and help businesses meet the required standards for storing, preparing and cooking food. In the vast majority of cases, food businesses are keen to work collaboratively with the Council to maintain high standards of hygiene.

Our inspectors visited the Lee Garden takeaway numerous times, making both unannounced checks and follow-up visits to make sure previous hygiene improvement notices were followed. They recorded extremely poor practice showing a serious lack of food hygiene knowledge.

This included:

  • filthy hand washing facilities - with no soap or hygienic drying available at the kitchen hand wash basin – which was also regularly blocked or unusable
  • dangers of cross-contamination of bacteria to ready-to-eat food – such as noodles stored loosely and directly on top of a chest freezer and rotting raw and cooked meat in fridges at too high a temperature
  • very poor cleaning - including the cooking range and deep fat fryer with grease dripping from the side of the wok unit and a build-up of grease generally
  • staff with an inadequate level of knowledge in food safety and hygiene – also utensils stored in the open air outside, next to used aprons soaking in dirty buckets of cold water in the backyard.

As well as issuing hygiene improvement notices and giving the takeaway a zero rating for food hygiene showing ‘Urgent Improvement Necessary’, our Environmental Health team also immediately closed the premises. Firstly, via a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice issued by Guildford Magistrates’ Court. And a second time during a food safety visit when the owner agreed to voluntarily close immediately.

Despite the impact of COVID-19 restrictions limiting public access for a long time, between January 2020 and September 2022 the Lee Garden persistently failed to comply and improve sufficiently. This led to the final step of taking legal action, resulting in a successful prosecution and award of costs to the Council.

Environmental Health

Caption: Lee Garden, cooked noodles in direct contact with surface. 

Helping food safety choices and reducing the risks of serious illness

To help the public check hygiene ratings and make an informed decision about where to eat or shop, nationally each food business is given a food hygiene rating when it is inspected by an Environmental Health Officer.

Find out more and check out all local ratings on our food safety website section

Regular inspections by our team also help prevent serious illnesses that can be caused by poor food hygiene standards, including gastrointestinal infections like salmonellosis and listeriosis.

Reducing these risks is very important, as some forms of gastrointestinal infection can cause serious complications or even be fatal, especially for young children, the elderly, or those with a weakened immune system.