There’s a rat in the kitchen what am I going to do? It is the question no self-respecting take away owner ever wants to find themselves asking – not least during a food hygiene visit from the local environmental health inspector.
But unfortunately for the proprietor of the New Chutney Express in Tooting, south London, the decision to fix that rat left him with a £20,000 fine and costs as well as a pool of blood on the floor.
In shocking scenes inspectors from Wandsworth Council were left recoiling in horror as Rajakumar Rajalingam killed a rodent in front of them. And despite his best efforts to quell the untimely infestation, officers watched as more rats appeared.
One inspector nearly trod on one as he tried to avoid the oncoming invasion, it was claimed. The officers later said they had never witnessed anything like it during a routine inspection and ordered the premises to be closed down until they were properly cleaned.
Rajalingam admitted a string of food hygiene breaches and a trading standards offence at Kingston Crown Court last week. Passing sentence the judge described the takeaway owner’s actions as “disgraceful” and said he should be “heartily ashamed of himself”.
He added he had “brought the restaurant business into disrepute” and put the “public at risk of serious illness”.
The court had earlier heard Rajalingam was using a nearby business unit to prepare dishes for the takeout on Tooting High Street. Environmental health officers discovered the unit overrun with rats and mice - their droppings visible in food preparation areas and shelves.
There was also evidence that chicken bones had been gnawed. It is believed the rodents had found their way into the kitchen through an uncovered drain beneath a hand washing sink.
Rajalingam, who had previously faced legal action from Wandsworth Council in 2007 for selling counterfeit champagne, was also fined £5,000 for selling fake Jacob's Creek wine in his shop.
The council's spokesman on consumer protection Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This was a shocking catalogue of hygiene and food safety breaches. These premises were in a truly appalling state and posed an unacceptable danger to public health.
”The judge was quite right when he told Mr Rajalingam that he should be ashamed of himself.
He added: “The inevitable consequence of such neglect may now result in lost earnings at his restaurant. For that Mr Rajalingam has only himself to blame. This should of course act as a warning to other food retailers who are prepared to play fast and loose with food safety laws.”