Owners of Needham Market Catastrophe Cat Café admit food safety and hygiene regulations
The owners of a café where cats roamed among customers have admitted breaching food safety and hygiene regulations.
Gemma Whitehouse, 30, of Woolpit, and Lauren Moyes, 26, of Stowmarket, appeared at Ipswich Magistrates' Court on Tuesday to admit the charges, relating to the Catastrophe Cat Café, in Needham Market.
Whitehouse and Moyes breached two regulations relating to hazard controls and food supply at the café, which was open from August 2017 until May this year.
On opening the café, which aimed to re-home unwanted cats and was funded through a lottery grant and crowd-funding, was given a four star hygiene rating on the basis food would not be prepared on the premises.
However following complaints from the public, Mid Suffolk District Council environmental health officers made repeated inspections. They found evidence of sandwiches being prepared in the cramped kitchen, out-of-date food in the dirty fridge and no separate sink for hand washing.
Simon Smith, prosecuting, said the owners were offered 'a lot of help and guidance' before having their hygiene rating lowered to one – indicating major improvement was necessary.
"Prosecution was a last resort in this case," he said.
Stuart Cooper, defending, said the café was opened as a not-for-profit venture, with Moyes and Whitehouse juggling other jobs with running the enterprise.
Mr Cooper said the the café 'caught the imagination' of the public and was far busier than expected, but had been the subject of a 'hate campaign'.
"There is no suggestion that anyone was actually served anything that was out of date," he added.
Moyes was fined £500 and Whitehouse was fined £700, with each also ordered to pay £250 costs.
The café faces the same two charges and an additional two charges, adjourned to a later date to allow for formal confirmation of the company being dissolved.
Cllr David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for environment, said: “Every day our food safety team is visiting businesses across the district, helping them understand and meet their food safety obligations.
"Prosecution is never a first resort for us, but businesses have to know that failing to provide a standard of hygiene that the public expect will not be tolerated: Catastrophe Café repeatedly failed to meet the standards required and I hope this sentencing will remind other food businesses that good hygiene is not an optional extra.”