A routine sampling survey by Council Trading Standards Officers found a takeaway to be selling a ‘nut free’ meal which was actually found to contain nuts.
Mrs Ronglan You, aged 42, a Director of a company trading as Wok Express, Station Street West, Coventry, together with her husband, Mr Shu Yong Huang, aged 47, the Food Business Operator, appeared at Coventry Magistrates on 22 January following an investigation into food being sold described as nut free when in fact it contained nuts, and the premises being dirty.
A visit to the takeaway by Environmental Health Officers found the kitchen to be in a dirty condition. Previous advice to clean the kitchen and its utensils had been ignored. It was concluded that cross contamination was the most likely reason for the presence of nut protein.
The company, Station Wall Limited, pleaded guilty and received a fine of £20,000. It was also ordered to pay £1081.17 costs plus a victim surcharge of £170.
Mrs You, who also pleaded guilty, was given no separate penalty however, her husband, and Food Business Operator, Mr Huang was fined £384.00 with a victim surcharge of £38 and was also ordered to pay £1,726 prosecution costs for the dirty kitchen.
In November 2018, as part of a routine sampling survey, Coventry Trading Standards Officers placed a telephone order for a ‘nut free’ takeaway Mongolian Crispy Lamb meal.
When the meal was collected Mrs You confirmed the meal was ‘nut free’.
Tests by Trading Standards' food analysts revealed the meal contained 14 times more peanut protein than the threshold needed to cause a reaction in the most sensitive 1% of peanut allergy sufferers.
This amount could have caused a reaction in those who are allergic to peanuts as the consumption of allergens by affected people can have serious health consequences and even lead to death.
All food sold must be described correctly and a food business must be able to give customers accurate information about 14 prescribed allergens that it contains.
Selling any food that is misdescribed or unsafe is a criminal offence and is taken seriously as reflected by the fine issued in this case.
Andrew Walster, Director of Streetscene and Regulatory Services, said: “This case highlights the important work of Trading Standards Officers. Information about food – particularly where customers need to know about allergens – is absolutely vital.
“I’d encourage people to get in touch if they have any concerns about other premises regarding food standards, inaccurate information about allergens or the cleanliness of the premises.”
Coventry Environmental Health and Trading Standards Officers visit restaurants and takeaways on a regular basis to give advice about allergens and the care that needs to be taken to ensure adequate separation of ingredients during storage, preparation and display to prevent cross contamination.
If consumers have any concern about the accuracy of a food description, they can contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133.