Dead rat, cows' feet and mould found in food businesses
A DEAD rat, mouldy food and cows' feet are among the health threats which have seen dozens of restaurants and other food businesses falling foul of health inspections this year.
Former celebrity haunt Town Bar & Grill was served with a closure order in February, after an environmental health officer found a dead rat and rodent droppings at the Kildare Street premises. Management at the glamorous restaurant - which once played host to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Gerry Ryan and Martin Sheen - were ordered to put a proper pest-control system in place.
The order was lifted a day later, after the problem had been sorted out, but the restaurant was sold and relaunched weeks later under a different name and with new management.
But Town Bar & Grill was far from alone in being found to have serious hygiene issues. The Irish Independent has learned the disconcerting details behind many of the 47 closures of restaurants, shops and manufacturers countrywide in 2014.
Closure orders are the strongest weapon health inspectors have to tackle food safety threats. These are issued to all or part of a premises when a "grave and immediate danger to public health" is deemed likely.
The number of businesses being slapped with these enforcement orders has spiralled in the last five years, with 119 premises receiving closure orders in 2013, compared to 34 in 2009.
Poor pest control has been a factor in many establishments, leading to cockroach and rat infestation, but dirt and inadequate food safety management are also common, a freedom of information request has revealed.
The Red Parrot pub on Dublin's Dorset Street received a closure order applying to its ground-floor kitchen in April, after inspectors discovered dirty kitchens with thick deposits of grease, a dirty meat slicer and green fruit mould that had spread to other parts of the floor. Containers of mayonnaise, ketchup and sauces were also covered in thick mould, while there was no proper food safety management system in place, the inspection report noted.
"Foodstuffs such as tomatoes, cheese and lettuce are stored in the refrigerator beside mouldy containers of food and on mouldy shelving, leaving them at risk of contamination," it said. The order was lifted when the problems were rectified.
Giles Brothers Fish Shop on Dublin's Phibsborough Road was served with a closure order in January, after an inspector found a litany of problems. The dirty conditions included a wellington boot filled with cigarette ash, a radiator covered in cigarette ash and cigarette butts beneath a fridge.
Bags of cowskins and cows' feet with no labelling, and no records to show where they came from, led to Johnson Best Food takeaway in Summerhill in Dublin's north inner-city being served with a prohibition order, which required the business to ensure these products were not used for human consumption.
Prohibition orders are also issued to ban the sale of a batch of food if it could pose a serious risk to public health. So far in 2014 nine prohibition orders have been issued.
As the high level of closure orders continues this summer, with seven in July alone, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has repeated its warning to businesses that the legal onus is on them to make sure the food they serve and sell is safe to eat. FSAI chief executive Prof Alan Reilly said each closure order undermined consumer confidence in the industry.