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Former owners of food business fined and banned for filthy and rat-infested factory

by Cathy Sheel

The former directors of a bakery company have been fined and banned from managing food businesses after pleading guilty to four charges of breaching food hygiene regulations. They appeared at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 8 February after Knowsley Council inspectors found their factory to be filthy and infested with rats.

Inspectors from Knowsley Council’s Environmental Health team carried out a routine food safety inspection at Bakery Quality First Ltd on 12 January 2023 – a factory that produced pastries for Polish shops throughout the North of England. Officers found that the factory was in a filthy condition and that there was rat activity throughout the premises. The team found that open food was stored in areas where there was rat activity and found that foodstuffs had been gnawed by rats.

The floor of the production room was contaminated with debris that could provide a source of food for rats. The factory was in a very poor state of repair, which allowed rats to enter the premises. Holes and gaps were found in the structure of the factory and an open drain was capped off with an empty food can.  A dead rat was found in a bucket near to where food and packaging was stored.

The owners of the factory were told that the premises posed an imminent risk to health, and they voluntarily closed the factory with immediate effect. The Food Standards Agency ordered a withdrawal of foods produced by the business. The company later went into liquidation, and therefore the Council stopped proceedings against the company itself.

Knowsley Council prosecuted the Directors of the company for their neglect in failing to ensure that the company followed food hygiene regulations.

Pawel Steglinski, aged 49 of Sapling Crescent in Kirkby and Marcin Hajduk, aged 40, of Warrenhouse Road in Kirkby were each fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,300 costs and a £400 victim surcharge. Piotr Kowalczyk, aged 52, of Warrenhouse Road in Kirkby was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,175 and a £200 victim surcharge.

The Council decided to take the unusual step of requesting that the former directors be banned from managing a food business. In sentencing the defendants, District Judge Healey remarked that it “must have been obvious that things were starting to go badly wrong” and that although they put in some measures to address the problems, they took a decision to continue without alerting the authorities, or seeking further guidance from pest control companies. Alternatively, he stated that they should have stopped production. For these reasons, the Judge found that the directors were highly culpable for the offences and imposed an indefinite Prohibition Order on them.