Ex-Luton restaurant manager narrowly avoids prison after cockroaches seen running in 'filthy and greasy' kitchen

The ex-manager of a popular Chinese restaurant in Luton received a suspended sentence after leaving inspectors aghast at the sight of running cockroaches and mice droppings.

Meixia Whiteley, 40, was the operator of How Cha noodle bar on Chapel Street when it was inspected by the council in July 2018 and found to have multiple food hygiene breaches.

How Cha noodle bar (taken during Whiteley's tenure)

How Cha noodle bar (taken during Whiteley's tenure)

The kitchen was described as "filthy and greasy, with a damaged ceiling and peeling paint".

Whiteley, of College Row, Harrow, had previously featured in the Luton News here after a customer found insect larvae in her meal.

On Friday, October 25, Whiteley was given a four month suspended prison sentence at Luton Crown Court and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, as well as fined costs of £1,176.

At the time of sentence, Whiteley's business May Tak Ltd had already ceased trading and a new operator has taken over How Cha Chinese and Thai premises in Chapel Street.

During the July 2018 inspection, live cockroaches were seen running behind a wall shelf in the kitchen and inside a cardboard box containing plastic bags used for prawn crackers.

There was also evidence of mice activity, rusty freezers with mouldy sealed doors, food containers covered in grime and a chopping board drenched in grease.

Kitchen shelving was damaged and could not be effectively cleaned and disinfected.

The premises was closed immediately using Hygiene Emergency Prohibition powers.

Cllr Aslam Khan, portfolio holder for public protection, said “Food businesses in Luton are expected to adhere to the strict cleanliness, structural and hygiene standards set by law to keep customers safe and healthy.

"It is absolutely inexcusable not to operate a food business in a safe manner and to ignore pest activity on the premises from which they operate.

“We will always prosecute those putting people at risk in this way, to protect residents and make sure that food businesses are operating within the law. I’m pleased that such a high sentence has been given.”

Food business operators should use reputable pest controllers that are registered with the British Pest Control Association or The National Pest Technical Association.

Alternatively, businesses can obtain advice and guidance and use the Council’s own pest control service by contacting 01582 546814 or emailing pestcontrol@luton.gov.uk

Any food business found to have pest activity faces emergency closure and prosecution.

Customers can view the food ratings of local establishments at https://ratings.food.gov.uk/.