Owner of Dirty and Dangerous Take-Away Jailed

21 July 2010, 12:05 | Updated: 21 July 2010, 12:19

Heart's been sent pictures of a Chinese take-away in Chatham after the former owner was jailed for a series of health and safety offences.

Zhi Hua Zhao, 52, formerly of 291, Luton Road, Chatham admitted exposing the public to a serious risk of electrocution, food poisoning and gas explosion when he pleaded guilty to 10 separate offences at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday, July 16 in a prosecution brought by Medway Council.

Zhao was jailed for 28 days per offence, to be served concurrently. He was also banned from running a food business anywhere in the UK and ordered to pay £2,000 towards the Council’s legal costs.

The case followed a series of visits by the Council’s food and safety team to the Chung Wah Express at 291 Luton Road, Chatham between September 2007 and February 2009.

During this time, the court heard, the premises was visited 16 times and 23 legal notices served, including:

  • Five health and safety prohibition notices
  • Two health and safety improvement notices and
  • 16 food hygiene improvement notices

The offences included:

  • A failure to train food handlers
  • Failure to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees
  • Failure to maintain an electrical installation in a safe condition
  • Failure to keep the premises clean
  • Failure to have in place a documented food safety management system
  • Failure to comply with four hygiene improvement notices
  • Failure to comply with a health and safety prohibition notice.

Cllr Mike O’Brien, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Enforcement, said.

“This sentence justifies the months of hard work the Council’s Environmental Health team have put into bringing forward this prosecution and sends out a message to other businesses which flout the law in this way.

“We tried to work with Zhao to address issues identified during visits to his premises but he appeared to have a total disregard for the health, safety and welfare of his staff, customers and neighbours.

“The majority of food premises in Medway are well run and comply with food hygiene and health and safety law but the conditions found at the Chung Wah Express were the among the worst seen by the Council in recent years.

"The kitchen and food preparation areas were found in a filthy state with bodged electrics and gas repairs that left untouched could so easily have resulted in disastrous and tragic consequences.”

Summing up His Honour Judge Martin Joy described the conditions found over a two year period at the premises as ‘shocking.’

Zhao’s persistent flouting of the law  had “exposed staff and the public to a serious risk of electrocution, food poisoning and gas explosion,” the court heard.

During an inspection on 20 September 2007  the electrics were found in such a dangerous condition that a health and safety prohibition notice was immediately served with energy firm EDF called in to remove the fuse board.

On the same day the visiting officer also identified that a water stopcock had been used to serve a gas pipe fuelling a cooking range in the kitchen.

Southern Gas Networks were called in and the gas supply turned off. The meter was also capped after engineers decided it posed an “immediate danger.”

A subsequent revisit on 26 August 2008 showed that other electric circuits had been dangerously installed by an unqualified person in breach of the prohibition notice.

The premises reopened in September 2009 under new ownership.