A Darlington takeaway has been closed at short notice after facing a 'sizeable' rat infestation at the venue. 

The infestation was discovered by Darlington Borough Council’s environmental health team when they carried out a routine food hygiene visit on December 14 at Thai Lemon at 149  Northgate. 

The premises was closed down at the time of the visit as it posed an immediate risk to public health.

The Northern Echo: Thai Lemon at 149  NorthgateThai Lemon at 149  Northgate (Image: DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL)

An Emergency Prohibition Order was secured at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court today (Thursday, December 28) under the provisions of the Food Safety & Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.

Environmental health officer Brian Whelan, who inspected the premises, said: “We carry out routine food hygiene inspections as part of our regular work to ensure that food premises are following the correct guidance in terms of food storage, preparation and general hygiene standards of the premises.

The Northern Echo: A rat trap on the floor of the premisesA rat trap on the floor of the premises (Image: DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL)

“Each inspection is then rated, and the outlet can then display this on their window or door. However, on the rare occasion when standards are not met, we will offer advice and guidance that the business owner must comply with if they are to receive a good hygiene score.

"If we find evidence of conditions that pose an immediate danger to public health, including a rodent infestation, we have the power to close down a business with immediate effect.

The Northern Echo: The floor of Thai LemonThe floor of Thai Lemon (Image: DARLINGTON BOROUGH COUNCIL)

“This closure is then followed up by a magistrate’s order which closes the premises until remedial action is carried out and our officers are satisfied that there is no risk to public health. We will work with the business to educate and inform where necessary.”

Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for economy added that ensuring people are safe when eating in venues across Darlington is the number one priority. 

Recommended reading:

Get more from The Northern Echo with a digital subscription. With our latest deal you can pay £3 for three months, or get 40% off a 12-month subscription. Click here.

He added: “I accompanied Brian on this visit and had the dubious privilege of witnessing the conditions that caused the closure of this business. This closure sends a clear message to food businesses that they must maintain hygiene standards at their premises or action will be taken.

“Our environmental health officers work tirelessly to ensure that food businesses comply with the necessary food hygiene legislation which in turn serves to protect public health.  In our recent campaign we’ve encouraged residents to check out before they eat out – checking the food hygiene rating of a business before they decide where to eat out or order food from.

“In Darlington, around 99 per cent of our food premises have a score of three or more (90 per cent have a score of four or five) but this can change so people must check the scores before they order.”