A BURGER van has been shut down after it received a zero food hygiene rating following four years of scoring one out of five.
Alex Burger Van, run by Asen Mitkov, in Millbrook Road on Stover Trading Estate in Yate, was refused a licence renewal by South Gloucestershire councillors.
The licensing sub-committee also ruled Mr Mitkov was not a “fit and proper person” to hold a street-trading permit following an objection by environmental health to the application on public safety grounds.
The hearing on Friday, May 26, was told the owner had been warned repeatedly to improve hygiene standards but had failed to do so and that any measures he introduced had been only temporary before “slipping back” to unacceptable levels a year later.
A food safety inspection by the council in April found that he used the same set of tongs for raw and cooked meat, stored lettuce on the bottom shelf of the fridge between uncooked bacon and sausages and failed to check the temperature of the fridge, which contained black pudding and cheese in broken plastic tubs.
It also found the van was in need of an “urgent clean”, records were not up to date, including no current gas safety certificate, food was not at the required temperature, Mr Mitkov did not wash his hands between handling money and bread rolls, and “a dirty brush from the dustpan was resting against the chopping boards”.
An environmental health officer told the sub-committee at Kingswood civic centre that several improvements had been made by the time she revisited a month later, such as acceptable food temperatures, hand washing and an extra pair of tongs to prevent cross-contamination of raw and cooked food, but some measures he was told to make had not been done, including the gas certificate and continuing to clean with reusable cloths.
A report to the panel said: “The food and safety team has worked hard to try and improve standards at Alex Burger Van over the past five years.
“Environmental health routine visits have required further follow-up visits and the food team has very little confidence that standards will be maintained.
“Mr Mitkov has not improved his food safety standards during this time and has recently scored a zero rating (urgent action necessary).
“There is a risk to the health and safety of the residents and visitors to the burger van.”
Mr Mitkov told the sub-committee he was sorry for the hygiene lapses but that those related to his previous, bigger van which was stolen recently and that he had bought a smaller one which was easier to maintain.
He said: “I’m sure that I’m going to keep it very clean and I will do everything that I should do.
“I’ve worked at this all my life, I don’t have anything else in my life in England.
“I need the chance to keep going with this business.”
The sub-committee heard that a zero rating, while serious, did not mean an “imminent risk” to public safety, which would have resulted in immediate closure, and that there had been no complaints from the public about food poisoning.
Councillors asked whether additional inspections could help bring the burger van up to standard but were told there were not enough officers to devote time to this and that it was Mr Mitkov’s responsibility to run a safe food business.
Senior licensing officer Emma Pain said: “What I would like us to remember is that this is an application for a renewal of a street trading consent and normally we wouldn’t grant a consent to somebody and then say ‘Actually we’re not too sure, we’d best keep coming and doing additional checks with you’.
“The application is just a normal application and it should be treated as so and we shouldn’t need to do additional visits and checks because we’re worried about the standards.
“If we’re worried then we shouldn’t be granting the consent.”
Licensing officer Andrew Forbes said Mr Mitkov had been given “multiple chances” but had not maintained improvements.
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Picture: Alex’s Burger Van traded from Millbrook Road on Yate’s Stover Road Trading Estate for five years.