Zero star hygiene restaurant infested by rats

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A Merseyside restaurant was found to be riddled with rat activity and putting its customers at risk of food poisoning in a report.

Fajitas Mexican Bar and Grill, in Moreton, Wirral, was given a zero star food hygiene rating after an inspection on February 25, which also revealed “extremely poor” cleaning at the restaurant.

The full report detailing the extent of the problems has been given to the ECHO.

Inspectors employed by Wirral Council said standards at Fajitas were “wholly unacceptable due to widespread rat activity in the rear preparation kitchen”.

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Rodent droppings were found under and behind equipment, under shelving where food was being stored and on shelving where glasses were being stored.

When the restaurant’s zero star hygiene rating was first revealed, a spokesperson said building work next door was to blame for rat activity on its premises and the resulting poor rating.

Fajitas was given a zero star hygiene rating in February

But the report notes that Fajitas’ pest control contractors said there were signs of mouse activity in the kitchen on January 17 and that following this revelation daily checks for pests should have taken place.

The inspector added that this should have helped staff at the restaurant to identify further pest activity including rats.

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The report stated: “It was concerning that you as the food business operator, nor any of your staff had identified the pest issue we found.”

After this inspection, the restaurant did close voluntarily for a brief period to rid itself of the “imminent risk of injury to health” identified in the report.

It reopened after a further inspection on March 4, which confirmed this imminent risk no longer existed.

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But the inspector warned that despite the improvement, it is still likely that there is pest activity at the premises or that it will return soon.

On this basis, the inspector said Fajitas must take a number of steps, including checking for signs of rodent activity such as dead carcasses prior to starting work each day.

Further problems at the restaurant

There was also a risk of food poisoning at Fajitas, due to the way chicken was allowed to cool down.

The report states that “chicken was left to cool at room temperature on top of an oven which was on”.

This is a major problem, as it slows down the cooling process and provides “ideal conditions for food poisoning bacteria to grow”.

The entrance to the restaurant in Moreton, Wirral

The general standard of cleaning was lambasted in the report.

The report said cleaning of the “general structure” of the premises, including the walls, floors, ceiling, sinks, shelving, the extraction canopy and general equipment was “extremely poor”.

Inspectors noted “a build up of staining, grease, general dirt and rodent droppings (found in the rear preparation kitchen)”.

To solve this a thorough deep clean, de-grease and disinfection was required.

The report also stated that dirty cloths and tea towels were being used to clean down, mop up spillages and dry equipment.

The restaurant was told it must use separate clean cloths for use in “clean environments”, such as cleaning surfaces and equipment used with ready-to-eat foods.

On the March 4 re-inspection, which saw the restaurant reopen, it was noted that cleaning standards had “greatly improved”. Inspectors said this must be maintained.

Food storage was also a problem at Fajitas.

Food packaging, such as metal takeaway foils, were exposed to “direct contamination from rat activity” and there were no provisions in place to store packing such as foil, or equipment such as utensils, in pest proof containers.

This oversight was due to the restaurant being unaware of the pest problem, the report stated.

A number of points where pests could enter Fajitas were found.

This included holes in the side and base of the restaurant’s back door, the ceiling of the rear preparation kitchen and other external entrances in the building’s structure.

One photo taken by inspectors to highlight problems at the premises

A spokesperson for the restaurant said potential pest entry points had now been sealed up.

Once the coronavirus lockdown is eased and a full re-inspection of the premises is possible, another report will be produced and the restaurant will get a new food hygiene rating.

The spokesperson said the restaurant is confident its score will greatly improve.

The spokesperson was keen to point out that the restaurant’s hygiene has improved significantly since this report was produced.

She said Fajitas has spent £10,000 and brought professional cleaners in twice a week to make this improvement.

She also said she was glad the inspection had taken place, as it made her aware of how to look for signs of pest infestation and what steps to take to deal with it.

She added that the restaurant makes a great effort to buy produce such as vegetables locally, at an increased cost to the business, and it employs local people – making a major contribution to the local economy.

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