AN Edinburgh-based catering firm which supplied food to thousands of people at Europe's biggest mosque has been fined £35,000 for breaching hygiene laws.
Maqbool Catering's kitchen and coffee shop at the London Central Mosque in Hampstead was closed down after council officers found they were infested with mice and cockroaches. The company, which is also thought to have supplied food to the Edinburgh Central Mosque in Potterrow, is based at the Peffermill Business Centre in North Peffer Place.
Environmental health officials from Edinburgh City Council were called in by their Westminster counterparts as part of the investigation.
Westminster Magistrates' Court heard how council officials first visited the London mosque, which can attract up to 4500 people for Friday prayers, on August 10 last year.
They found mouse droppings on work surfaces, plates and in boxes of potatoes.
Food was not stored properly and there was no hot water or soap in the sinks.
They told the company to clean up before a visit the following day, but officers returned to find fresh mouse droppings on food preparation surfaces, on washed utensils and on the floor.
A live cockroach was seen in the food sink and cockroach excrement was found in an area where salad was being washed.
Officers immediately closed the kitchens because of fears they posed a "significant risk" to human health.
The council served notices instructing Maqbool to comply with hygiene laws and the kitchens re-opened on August 18, 2006.
But when the council visited to check on improvements on November 8, officers found staff still had not been trained in food hygiene.
Defence counsel Simon Butler today said Maqbool had taken over the mosque's kitchens four months before the council inspection and had "inherited" poor conditions and untrained staff.
But Chairman of the Bench, Leo Liebster, rejected the company's claims and imposed the maximum fine possible, a total of £33,000 and costs of £1853.57.
He said: "This is one of the worst food hygiene cases we've seen. Maqbool Catering was already in the business of catering, it knew what standards were required, it knew the dangers in supplying food that could be contaminated in that way. They were supplying high volumes of food, putting many people at risk."
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh City Council said Maqbool's premises in the Capital had been inspected regularly. She said: "The most recent inspection was carried out in July, where only minor issues were identified. The company was advised verbally by environmental health officers of how to resolve these issues. A further inspection had been scheduled to take place on September 12, however, the premises were found to be closed.
"We were approached by our colleagues in Westminster as part of their preparation for legal action; they wanted to verify that we were aware of the company's premises in Edinburgh.
She added: "It is our understanding that Maqbool's Edinburgh premises has supplied produce to Edinburgh Central Mosque at Potterrow."
Source: Scotsman (English)