Newcastle restaurant served food while infested with rats, court hears

A Newcastle restaurant continued to serve food despite a major rat infestation, a court has heard.

When environmental health officers inspected TeAmo Chinese and BBQ House on Percy Street, they found piles of soil on the kitchen floor, evidence that rodents had burrowed into the structure of the restaurant.

Rat droppings were found all over the restaurant, on countertops, under the oven and the sink used for washing pots.

A hole in the wall through which the rats entered was covered by the lid of a deep well.deep fryer.

The owner has agreed to the business closing immediately, at the request of environmental health officers, until the pest activity is brought under control and a thorough clean of the premises is undertaken. The environmental health team carried out several visits to the premises to ensure that the necessary work to improve hygiene standards was being carried out.

A rat was discovered during a visit to the premises of the now-dissolved company. Credit: Newcastle City Council

A rat carcass was found on the kitchen floor during a subsequent inspection, following intensive pest control treatment and other breaches of food safety legislation.

Min Hou, a food business operator of Spring Garden Lane, Newcastle, admitted five food hygiene breaches when she appeared before Newcastle Magistrates. She was fined £533, ordered to pay a surcharge of £213 and £1,200 in costs, totalling £1,946.

Tea and More Limited, of which Hou was a director, also admitted the same five offences. It was fined £8,000, ordered to pay a £2,000 surcharge and £1,200 costs, totalling £11,200.

The court heard on Friday (July 5) that the restaurant previously had a five-star hygiene rating when the council received a complaint.

Environmental health officers who inspected the premises in April 2023 immediately discovered a rat infestation. The kitchen was dirty and greasy and there was dirt on the floor caused by rats digging in the kitchen.

There were stain marks along the skirting boards where rats had run and there was evidence that staff had continued to prepare food in the dirty kitchen.

Behind a piece of cardboard and the lid of a fryer was a large rat hole filled with six poisoned wax blocks. The infestation was described as prolonged and well established.

When approached by officers, Hou voluntarily closed the restaurant immediately and was asked to eradicate the infestation and then thoroughly clean the entire premises before officers would consider allowing the premises to reopen.

She called in a pest control expert who initially believed the rats were coming from the drains beneath the property. When officers returned a few weeks later, they found cleaning standards remained poor. Rat droppings were found on a shelf and in a box containing chopping boards.

In July 2023, the restaurant received a one-star hygiene rating and Hou was placed under caution with a view to taking formal action.

The company has now been dissolved.

Newcastle City Councillor for Resilience, Irim Ali, said: “This is a horrific breach of food hygiene regulations. No one can help but be disgusted by the state of this restaurant. I am just relieved that it has now closed and no one has been poisoned.”

“I want to pay tribute to our food safety team for the important work they do to keep the public safe. I hope the penalties imposed in this case will serve as a reminder to all food businesses to ensure their premises are spotless and to take action as soon as they discover a problem.

“When people eat out, they rightly expect the highest standards of food hygiene.

“As a council, we will not hesitate to take enforcement action when“The rules are not being respected.”

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