Harvest Moon Farm emergency hygiene order

Kevin Snow08th July 2013

On 4 July at West and Central Hertfordshire Magistrates' Court, Watford, the Bench considered an application from Three Rivers District Council for a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order under the Food Hygiene Regulations, to close a food production facility at Harvest Moon Free Range Farm, Sarratt.

Following a complaint, an  environmental health officer discovered that a kitchen area within a farm building was being used for commercial food production, contrary to repeated advice over many years that it was not suitable for such use. 

On inspection the kitchen was found to be dirty, there was a heavy infestation of flies and signs of mice, for mouse droppings were present.  Food was being prepared and cooked, with the intention of serving it at various London street markets as part of ready to eat curries and casseroles.

Mr Timothy Norris, the food business operator, appeared in Court to oppose the making of the Order.  While he agreed that the kitchen was dirty and an infestation of flies and rodent droppings were present when the environmental health officer visited on 26 June, Mr Norris attempted to reassure the bench.  He said that as the food was to be cooled down and reheated at the market, there would be no risk to health from any contamination from rodents or insects. 

The Magistrates, however, were not persuaded and granted the Order. Mr Norris was required to pay the Council's costs of £490.  
The future lifting of the Order is subject to further inspection by a District Council environmental health officer. In the event of a dispute, the decision will be made by the Magistrates Court. 

A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order is only granted if Magistrates are satisfied that there was imminent risk of injury to health. Environmental  health officers cannot close food businesses on health grounds without the later scrutiny of the Court. If the Order is not granted, the Council may be required to pay compensation to the operator.