A Richmond restaurant owner has been fined for selling a curry that could have caused a life-threatening reaction if eaten by someone with an allergy.
The curry bought at the Taj Mahal Restaurant, in Trinity Square, was described as peanut-free when it was actually made using a mixed-nut ingredient that contained peanut.
Owner Raj Uddin Qureshi appeared before York Magistrates’ Court today following a test purchase at his restaurant by a trading standards officer from North Yorkshire County Council.
The officer made the unannounced visit to restaurant on January 6 this year to order a peanut-free “no nut, no peanut” chicken tikka masala curry following a complaint from a member of the public.
The food was analysed and peanut protein was detected. The analysis found the dish would have caused a person with a peanut allergy to experience an allergic response.
Trading Standards discovered the restaurant was using a mixed-nut ingredient that contained peanut.
A subsequent investigation found Qureshi failed to provide training to his staff regarding allergens and had no system of recording allergen information for the foods sold by the business.
Qureshi pleaded guilty to offences of selling food not of the substance demanded by the purchaser, and of placing on the market food which was unsafe and injurious to the health of a person with an allergy to peanuts.
He also pleaded guilty to the unfair practice of using a menu that falsely claimed the restaurant was rated ‘5 very good’ for food hygiene when no such hygiene rating had been awarded.
Following the visit from Trading Standards, the restaurant received a food hygiene inspection from Richmondshire District Council’s environmental health officers and was issued with a food hygiene rating of ‘1 Major Improvement Required’.
Qureshi was fined £500 for each of two food safety offences relating to the sale of the curry, £500 for each of two offences relating to the false food hygiene rating, and was ordered to pay a £50 victim surcharge and prosecution costs of £500 – a total of £2,550.
North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for trading standards, Cllr Derek Bastiman, said: “The potential harm that could have come about had this food been ordered and consumed by a person with an allergy to peanuts is very real.
“There have been deaths as a result of undeclared food allergens.
“It is vital that food businesses take responsibility for complying with their legal responsibilities to ensure consumers are protected and can rely on the descriptions and claims given to them.
“I call on all businesses to review their practices regarding food allergens. It is not acceptable to put lives at risk.”