THE owner of a popular cafe in Westbury High Street has pleaded guilty to food safety and hygiene offences, and been fined £1,000.

Wiltshire Council’s food safety team took Conrad Burrows, of Summer Road, Westbury, to court, where he pleaded guilty to 16 offences under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.

Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard environmental health officers inspected Mad Hatters cafe in May 2017 and found the owner preparing and serving food without any hot water.

He had no food safety management system to keep the café clean, protect foods from harmful contamination and maintain good stock rotation, resulting in out-of-date foods having to be surrendered for disposal.

As well as the fine he was ordered to pay £1,200 towards the costs of the prosecution.

The cafe is still open for business, with a one star hygiene rating, and council inspectors revisit it frequently.

Mr Burrows,44, said: "The inspector visited the cafe two days after the hot water system broke down and we were in the process of trying to get it fixed.

"They then found out-of-date stock in the fridge, which we would not have used anyway, and that we did not have a separate sink for handwashing.

"They also complained about the ceiling not being painted with gloss and about the wall to floor covering, and also about porous tiles on the stockroom floor.

"We have since closed the stockroom for refurbishment and have addressed all of the other issues they raised and now comply with the regulations.

"They used to visit us regularly but now we have been told the visits will be once a year, which is normal for a small cafe business such as this."

The authority later said: "The officers discovered that the premises had opened for business without prior registration with the council and before alterations to create a new kitchen and store room had been completed.

"The business closed voluntarily in May 2017 for a deep clean and repair of the faulty hot water system. But despite this early action by the EHOs and subsequent advice, follow up visits in June, July, September and November last year revealed continuing failures to meet legal standards. Enforcement action was taken to secure improvements."

Mr Burrows pleaded guilty to his failure to comply with three of these hygiene improvement notices.

A council spokesman later added: "We did not receive a food business registration – we were told by the owner that he was hoping to open a new business and he was advised of the requirement to register and let us know back in February 2017.

"We heard nothing more from him but received a complaint in May which prompted a visit on May 12 when the first very serious breaches came to light."

Cllr Jerry Wickham, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for public protection, said: “It is unusual in Wiltshire to have to resort to prosecution of a food business as a sanction.

“Our food safety officers work tirelessly with businesses to help them secure high standards of hygiene which is reflected in the excellent hygiene ratings seen across the county.

“We take no pleasure in this action but it is sometimes necessary where businesses do not follow guidance and advice given or if there is a flagrant disregard for the law.

“Whatever the circumstances that led to the operation of the café in a poor state, the health of customers is paramount and food hygiene breaches of this type will not be tolerated.”