Westergate restaurant owner pleads guilty to food safety and standards offences
The owner of a Westergate restaurant, who served an unsafe curry containing nuts and made false claims on the menu, has been sentenced following an investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards Service.
Awal Mahmmued, 43, of Elm Grove, Southsea, Hampshire, together with his company Basmati Restaurant Limited, was ordered to pay a total of £4669.82 in fines and costs at Crawley Magistrates Court on 29 October 2020, a trading standards spokesman confirmed.
He owns two Basmati restaurants – one in Nyton Road, Westergate, West Sussex, and the other in Locks Heath, near Southampton, Hampshire.
Trading Standards officers originally warned Mr Mahmmued in 2018 when an inspection at a previous restaurant he had owned uncovered false claims on the menu relating to welfare standards of meat, the nutritional content of dishes, use of artificial additives and the provenance of ingredients.
Mr Mahmmued told officers that the remaining takeaway menus would be amended or destroyed, the spokesman said.
In early 2019, a Trading Standards Officer received an unsolicited takeaway menu for the Basmati restaurant in Aldingbourne, at her home address.
The menu appeared to be identical to the one previously found to be false, the spokesman said.
Not only were the false claims still present, but they had been highlighted with a marker pen.
Officers then visited the restaurant undercover, claiming to be customers with a nut allergy.
They ordered three meals, the Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Biriyani and the Lamb Kurma, which were sent for testing by the Public Analyst.
All three failed the tests, the spokesman confirmed.
The Lamb Kurma contained ‘a significant amount of almond’, despite the officer declaring a nut allergy, said the spokesman.
The Chicken Biriyani contained no saffron and the Tandoori Chicken contained artificial colours and flavourings.
None of the dishes were low in salt and oil, all contrary to what was claimed by the menu.
Peter Aston, West Sussex Trading Standards Team Manager, said: “The consequences of failing to prepare or label food correctly can mislead the general public, and can be fatal for people with severe allergies.
“Whilst we appreciate this is a difficult time for the restaurant industry, there is no excuse for defrauding or endangering the lives of unsuspecting customers.
“This sentence sends a clear message that West Sussex Trading Standards takes food safety and standards very seriously.
“I hope this will encourage other restaurant owners to think carefully about their allergen management practices and how they describe the food they sell.”
Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “I would like to thank the Trading Standards Officers who investigated this issue.
“Serving unsafe food is a serious offence and will not be tolerated in West Sussex.”
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of an unfair trading practice, should contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice on 08082231133 or online via www.westsussex.gov.uk/tsreport.