ROTTING vegetables were found when environmental health officers visited a town centre take-away.

Ranjit Matharu, of the Best Burritoz in Havelock Square, pleaded guilty at Swindon Magistrates’ Court to six charges of breaching health and safety regulations.

The offences included: failing to protect food from contamination; failing to keep premises clean, maintained and in good order; and failing to ensure fittings in contact with food were clean and in good working order to avoid risk of contamination.

A series of checks by environmental health officers between 2008 and 2010 discovered decomposing tomatoes and courgettes.

They also found that a number of staff had not been trained in health and safety matters.

Phillip Wirth, prosecuting on behalf of Swindon Council, said: “This breach of public health and safety exposes the public to significant health risks.”

Fining Matharu £2,250 and ordering he pay £500 costs, chairman of the bench Geoffrey Earl said: “These are always difficult cases to deal with to reflect the seriousness of an offence, especially as these offences range greatly. We have six matters, three relate directly to actual food offences which affect the quality and the other three relate to errors in the systems in place.”

Defending, Martin Gwyl-Wiggins told the court: “Mr Mathura understands the importance of regulations. He does not wish to be a rebel business but made errors in his bid to be successful.

“Last year, Mr Mathura was subject to a mystery shopper and, along with five other businesses, including Marks and Spencer, won the highest award that could be given.

“He has been in business since 1999 and in that time he has had regular testing of food and there was no suggestion of cross contamination and no complaint of quality from customers.”

Phil Thomas, Swindon Council’s head of community and commercial safety, said: “Environmental health officers will always look to work with businesses to help them understand and implement the law.

“However, if owners are reluctant to comply with hygiene practices and cleaning procedures then it is in the public interest to take enforcement action.

“The court’s decision sends a clear message to food proprietors that food safety is a serious matter and persistent breaches will not be tolerated.”