A 25-year-old son who took charge of his family's takeaway restaurant has been banned from running fast food shops by a crown court judge who heard of rats on the floor, food being prepared alongside animal excrement and shocking food hygiene arrangements.

Appalled health inspectors shut down the "Hot Stuff" Indian takeaway in Oxford Road after repeated violations of food standards.

The alarm was raised by one diner who arrived at Hot Stuff and saw a rat run across the kitchen floor, the judge was told.

Director Shahbaz Mujtaba and Hot Stuff Ltd were facing fines and costs of almost £15,000.

Reading Chronicle:

Mujtaba's father has taken over running the shop after Judge Kirsty Real implemented a Hygiene Prohibition Order stopping the son from running any food takeaway business.

The judge, sitting at Reading Crown Court, heard that Mujtaba became sole director of the family business in 2014, but resigned in 2018 after many clashes with Environmental Health officials, handing the business over to his father.

Despite visits from horrified council inspectors over an eight month period, the 25-year-old director failed 10 times to comply with food safety provisions and failed to comply on three counts of improvement notices.

Just days before health officials immediately shut down Hot Stuff because of the danger to public health, a woman had posted online about the takeaway, saying: "I have been waiting in the shop for a kebab, I saw a rat running around in your kitchen.

"I informed you of this and you have carried on with business as usual.

"I will most certainly be phoning Environmental Health tomorrow.

"Shame on you for serving up rat food."

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Judge Real was told that Mujtaba had brought in pest controllers when the business was shut down but after it reopened, he made no further effort to sort any of the other clear violations of food hygiene and safety, whilst ignoring regular appointments with Environmental Health staff.

Prosecutor Edward Elton told the court that Mujtaba had no awareness of allergy information despite being the director of the business and, as a result, the staff displayed poor knowledge of food information and food hygiene and safety.

Mr Elton said: “On October 2 2017 after a complaint from a member of the public, the Environmental Health team visited Hot stuff.

"The first thing they saw was food being prepared next to a dollop of fresh excrement.

“There was no food organisation as open food was visible in the chiller with no protection in an environment rife with rodents.

"Raw and cooked chicken was handled without washing of hands.

"The washing-up area had filthy tiles which could not have been cleaned as some were missing and cables had been chewed.

“Some temperature checking sheets had been pre-signed but not completed when they should have been.

"Staff displayed poor knowledge of food information - they were not properly trained nor properly supervised posing a high risk for allergy sufferers.

"After a visit, Mujtaba was given an allergen sheet by Environmental Health but on another visit under caution, he could not identify two very obvious allergens which were in his king prawn madras dish - crustaceans and soy."

Mujtaba, of Tern Close, Tilehurst, was defended by Michael Phillips, who argued in mitigation that he was subject to ill-health which he could not control, making him forcibly an absent presence in the business and trusting staff to lead the business, who he said let him down.

“Mr Mujtaba is utterly embarrassed and totally ashamed.

"He left school in 2012 and took over the family business in 2014," said the defence counsel.

"He suffered from myeloid leukaemia and in 2017 his health deteriorated.

"He was not able to be at the restaurant due to illness which is when the Environmental Health visits started.

"At the same time, his father had to return to Pakistan following family deaths."

Sentencing Mujtaba, Judge Real, said: "Over an eight-month period Environmental Health teams visited many times.

"On the first visit October 2, there was clear evidence of rat infestation, tiles missing from the wall meaning it could not be cleaned properly, and outside was full of debris.

"The situation was so bad that action was taken to close the premises immediately.

"Following that, the company called in pest control.

"The Environmental Health visited again but there was still a rat infestation and still no food management system in place.

"On November 6 Hot Stuff reopened with the rat infestation dealt with, but despite announced visits by Environmental Health, staff were not trained and raw food was seen kept with ready-to-eat food revealing poor hygiene.

"The business was issued with further improvement notices and further visits but there was no evidence of compliance.

"On a visit in May 2018 you demonstrated a lack of knowledge of food allergen information.

"As a result, you resigned in August 2018 and your father is now the director.

"On the first visit in October you did not prove that you were a person exercising reasonable care and after you were told of the problems you made no visible effort and showed no remorse for your lack of action.

"I am fining the company for three main offences amounting to £10,000 and individually I am fining you £980 for the three main charges."

Mujtaba was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,000 and the company to pay £2,626 in costs.

Both Mujtaba and the Hot Stuff Ltd., were ordered to pay victim surcharges.

"Finally, I am applying a hygiene prohibition order to prevent you from running a takeaway business.

"This is because I find you wholly inadequate to manage a takeaway business."