THE owner of a filthy pizza shop has narrowly avoided prison after continuing to sell takeaway food after it was closed by health inspectors.

The disgusting conditions discovered inside the former Big Bite Pizzeria in Linthorpe, Middlesbrough, included filthy work surfaces, raw meat being prepared next to salad, poor staff hygiene and cleaning clothes reused without being disinfected.

Inspectors described the premises as presenting an imminent risk of injury to health and the business was ordered to close immediately.

The grim details were revealed at Teesside Crown Court when Saghir Ahmed appeared for sentencing after being found guilty of five food hygiene and unfair trading offences.

Anthony Pettengell, prosecuting, said: "Following the visit, Teesside Magistrates' Court granted an emergency prohibition notice which closed the premises until the hygiene breaches cold be rectified."

He told the court that the business continued to trade using the Just Eat delivery app but a customer reported them after reading about the shop's closure.

Ahmed, of Devonshire Road, Middlesbrough, was found guilty following a trial at Teesside Magistrates' Court.

Mr Pettengell said the defendant claimed not to have been involved in the business at the time of the inspection but after hearing that he was the sole account holder with Just Eat for the business and his name was on several documents linking him to it, he was convicted.

He added the56-year-old had a previous conviction for similar offences dating back to September 2016 connected to another business on Linthorpe Road – Chunki Chicken.

In mitigation, Nigel Soppitt, said his client no longer worked in the food industry and was now working as a taxi driver.

He said: "The premises were in a shameful state, there was the potential for bacteria spread, there was no evidence of any harm caused.

"He has no intention of going back to the food supply business."

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, ordered Ahmed to carry out 280 hours of unpaid work and pay the prosecution's court costs of around £2,000.

"What they found was premises that were in a dirty, unhygienic condition and in a significant state of disrepair.

"I'm not going to list everything that they found but they found food preperation surfaces which were cluttered and dirty; inadequate means of cleaning both hands and surfaces; dirty reusable clothes and food containers which were stored in conditions risking bacterial contamination.

"Chopping boards, work benches, food mixers were all dirty; staff toilets, including taps were dirty or in a poor state of repair," he said.

"Food itself was being stored in unsanitary conditions and there was clear evidence of inadequate disinfection."