The proprietor at the Fortune Cookie restaurant in Ewell was prosecuted after an inspection by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC).

Chun Gen Zheng of Ewell's Fortune Cookie pleaded guilty at Guildford Magistrates Court last week to 21 offences under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations.

He is due to be sentenced at the same court later this month (June 25).

The Court also made a Hygiene Prohibition Order (Regulation 7(4) of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013) prohibiting Mr Zheng from participating in the management of any food business, and are to review this at the sentencing hearing.

The case was pursued following a food hygiene inspection in September 2018, which uncovered a level of food hygiene described by the Environmental Health inspector as ‘appalling’ and among the worst practices she had ever seen, a spokesperson for EEBC said.

The business was immediately closed to allow remedial action and cleaning to take place and reopened several days later.

Nonetheless, due to the seriousness of the issues raised, EEBC took the decision to prosecute.

Describing the conditions uncovered in the September inspection, the spokesperson commented:

"The charges related to unsafe storage of food likely to render it unfit to consume, dirty equipment, dirty premises, dirty and damaged food containers, staff wearing dirty clothing and aprons, a lack of hand washing materials, preparing food in an outside yard and inadequate pest control."

Former Epsom Mayor Neil Dallen, now the Chair of the Environment and Safe Communities Committee, said the prosecution had to do with protecting residents in the community.

"Our inspectors undertake hundreds of food hygiene inspections each year. The vast majority of these show that local businesses take the safety of our community seriously.

"Where businesses struggle to meet the highest standards, we offer a range of interventions to help them and to safeguard their customers.

"In this case, multiple serious offences were identified which put the public at risk and the council needed to prosecute," Cllr Dallen said.

He added that EEBC councillors were lobbying for restaurants to be obliged to display hygiene ratings to customers in the future.

"All food establishments in the borough are inspected and their ratings published on-line. At the moment food premises voluntarily display these and, unsurprisingly, those with the poorest rating don’t display them.

"We continue to lobby through the Local Government Association for there to be a national requirement for food establishments to prominently display their ratings," Cllr Dallen said.