Cockroaches were found next to tubs of open ice-cream in one of Newcastle’s most popular Chinese restaurants.
Customers complained for months of seeing cockroaches scuttling across tables and floors in Lau’s Buffet King at Stowell Street and now its owner has been slapped with a £3,000 fine after council officers uncovered an infestation.
The all-you-can-eat buffet’s catalogue of health hazards also included flies breeding from drains.
Both Jun Lau, owner of Lau’s Buffet King, and the company Junny Limited, were prosecuted for failing to put in place procedures to control pests and failing to keep the restaurant clean at a hearing at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court.
Newcastle City Council’s two month long investigation led to the 200 seater restaurant being shut down for eight days earlier this year after it was deemed a danger to the public.
Despite repeated warnings to call out pest control and deep clean the premises, complaints continued from members of the public between November 2014 and January this year.
A staff report explains how an environmental health officer from Newcastle City Council saw cockroaches on the ‘walls, floor and surfaces’ and in an ice-cream freezer next to open tubs of chocolate and strawberry ice-cream.
Their report said: “Further evidence of cockroaches was found in the downstairs pot wash room indicating that the whole premises were infested. Officers decided that the premises presented an imminent risk to health and needed to close.”
Lau is part of the Lau family business empire, which owns six Chinese restaurants across the North East, including Buffet King, which opened in 1999, a Buffet King branch in the Metrocentre and Lau’s 202 Buffet House and supermarket Hi You by Lau’s at Newgate Street.
There was no suggestion that any of the Lau’s other restaurants violated any hygiene rules.
Buffet King re-opened in January after Newcastle Council chiefs said they were satisfied hygiene standards were met.
Magistrate Richard Ferry said: “This is a serious breach of food hygiene. The photographs clearly show a restaurant that has not been cleaned for a long time. This was not the result of a long weekend, it is very dirty on and under surfaces and there are clear scenes of insect infestation.
“We accept that nobody reported any food poisoning outbreaks, however, we feel this was a real risk due to the level of infection and cleanliness.”
As cockroaches feed on human faeces as well as human food they can spread germs that cause disease including salmonella food poisoning and the bacteria Staphlococcus which can cause impetigo.
Magistrate Mr Richard Ferry took into account an early guilty plea from Lau on behalf of the restaurant and fined the business £3,000 as well as £3,200 in costs.
Lau was also personally handed two fines of £245, costs of £234 and a victim surcharge of £24.