Mackay magistrate says language barrier ‘no excuse’ for restaurant’s unsafe food handling – ABC News

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A north Queensland Magistrate has told a restaurant owner charged with poor food handling practices that “people suffer from your laziness”.

The Mackay Magistrates Court heard Kent Loi Ming Cheuk’s takeaway restaurant stored raw chicken in kitchen sinks, left cooked chicken out for hours, and failed to clean up dead insects behind equipment in the kitchen.

Cheuk pleaded guilty to unsafe food handling, failing to comply with an improvement notice, and a requirement imposed by food standards.

He owns takeaway restaurant Panda House in the Mackay suburb of Mount Pleasant.

Through a Cantonese translator, Cheuk told the court he found it difficult to understand improvement notices that had been issued by the Mackay Regional Council. 

Magistrate James Morton said the man had an unacceptable and lackadaisical approach to food handling.

“He relies upon the fact that they needed to be translated which made it difficult. I find that that is no excuse,” Magistrate Morton said.

“I accept you’ve cleaned your act up, but people suffer from your laziness.

“Don’t use your lack of understanding of English as an excuse.”

Shop front with red signs and yellow writing, and cartoon pandas
Panda House is a restaurant in the Mackay suburb of Mount Pleasant.(ABC Tropical North: Cristy-Lee Macqueen)

The charges date back to April 2020.

The court heard Cheuk had not facilitated food safety and handling training for staff and failed to maintain easily accessible hand washing facilities.

“Other food containers were being washed in the handwashing basin,” Magistrate Morton told the court.

The court heard the restaurant would defrost chicken in water in the sink without temperature controls and there was cross contamination between raw chicken and other surfaces.

Close up of sandwich board for Panda House, in red and black with a cartoon panda in the centre holding a bowl of rice.
The court was told Cheuk had made improvements since being charged.(ABC Tropical North: Cristy-Lee Macqueen)

“There were dead insects behind equipment within the kitchen, there was an accumulation of food waste on the floor,” Magistrate Morton said.

Mackay Regional Council lawyer Kate Bone told the court Cheuk had made improvements since being charged.

“Council officers have been to the premises since these charges and there has been an improvement in cleanliness,” Ms Bone said.

“The defendant has addressed a number of the issues in the charges and they also made sure some of the staff have attended the food safety training.”

Cheuk was fined $2,000, ordered to pay costs of $1,500 to council, and a $77 service fee.

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