AN UNSUSPECTING family found metal staples in a pizza from a Milford Haven takeaway, Haverfordwest magistrates heard on Monday.
The owner of USA Fried Chicken, Seddart Mert, 26, of Charles Street, Milford Haven, pleaded guilty to failing to protect food from contamination likely to render it unfit for human consumption, failure to keep food premises clean and well-maintained, and to selling unsafe food.
Mert’s company, Merthan Ltd, of which he is director and sole employee, was taken to be jointly liable for the offences.
Sally Martin, prosecuting, told that court in April last year, a Mr and Mrs Clark bought a pizza from the Charles Street takeaway.
When the couple sat down to eat with their six-year-old son, Mr Clark felt a hard object in his mouth. He discovered metal staples in the dough base, and took his son’s pizza away. Mr Clark photographed the staples and put the pizza in a bag.
He called Mert to complain, and was offered another pizza. Mr Clark declined. Mert then visited the Clarks’ home, and gave the family a refund.
Mr Clark reported the matter to the council and handed over his evidence.
An Environmental Health Officer visited Mert’s takeaway.
In the kitchen, the officer saw a shelf directly above the mixer used to make the pizza dough. The shelf was dirty, and there was a stapler and a box of staples on it. She saw dirty delivery bags on a bag of flour, and dirty carrier bags stored behind a pipe. Mert said he used the bags to cover dough while it rose.
The officer found the food storage fridge was dirty, and had cooked and raw items next to or on top of each other. The kitchen in general did not display a satisfactory level of cleanliness, and the officer noted damaged tea towels and dirty cloths.
In the shop area, the officer saw carrier bags hanging behind the counter, which could fall down and contaminate food. The seal of the drinks fridge was dirty, and the cash till was heavily soiled.
The officer returned the following day to give the premises a zero rating for food hygiene. She saw a staff member cleaning and found the kitchen area in general to be much cleaner.
The court heard Mert has since sacked his staff and wishes he could change what happened.
Gareth Lewis, defending, said Mert had taken immediate action following the officer’s visit.
“My client has already been punished by the adverse publicity and the zero hygiene rating,” said Mr Lewis.
“He has applied for re-accreditation and is confident of a higher rating. The offence is 12 months old, and no further complaints have been received, showing a clear improvement between then and now.”
He said Mert was “genuinely at a loss” as to how staples got in the dough.
“As the dough is made in large batches, my client cannot understand how staples were not found in any other pizzas, or how they looked immaculate despite having been cooked and chewed,” said Mr Lewis.
“Something does not quite sit right about this in my client’s mind.”
Magistrates fined Mert £750 and ordered him to pay costs of £1,000, plus a victim surcharge of £75, splitting the amount to pay between him and his company.
After the hearing, the Pembrokeshire County Council’s cabinet member for environmental and regulatory services, Cllr Huw George, said the Authority would not hesitate to take action where serious contraventions of the legislation were discovered by authorised officers.
“Food businesses must take all necessary measures to protect food from contamination risks” he stressed