A BUSINESSMAN has been forced to close his shop after an undercover operation trapped him dumping sheep's heads, cows' hooves and stomachs in the street.

Environmental health bosses were delighted with the court order which bans Jalal Sulman from running any food-related business. They claimed it was one of the worst cases they have ever dealt with.

Sulman of Palin Close, Middlesbrough, was fined £3,800 with £4,000 costs at Teesside Magistrates after admitting 19 offences under food hygiene and environmental protection laws.

The 43-year-old Iraqi, who runs the Fatema Supermarket and Butchers, in Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough, said cultural differences were the cause of the problem.

Middlesbrough Council's solicitor, Jeanette Thompson, said that, during the investigation, rubbish from the business was dumped in the town in January and February last year, following the cancellation of his collection contract.

When officers inspected the premises, they found nine sheep heads, three bags of sheep feet and a large bag of cow hooves, which still had dung and hair on them. Raw meat and cooked products were stored together and there were inadequate washing facilities for staff.

Julian Gaskin, mitigating, said the father-of-four had been living in the country for eight years but there was still a massive cultural gulf.

He said: "It is a lack of understanding and naivety that led to this problem. There is a cultural difference between what goes on in this country and what goes on in that country (Iraq).

"He accepted he wasn't paying as much attention as he should have done. He wasn't aware that the contracts had been cancelled in regard to the waste removal."

Banning Sulman, chairman of the bench Charles Onion said: "You have accepted that you are ultimately responsible for the operation of this business, including the action or omissions of your employees."

Speaking after the hearing, Middlesbrough Council's principal environmental health officer Melissa Clapham welcomed the magistrates' tough stance.

She said: "We are absolutely delighted. This may be the first prohibition order placed on anybody in Middlesbrough. It shows he has a blatant disregard food hygiene standards. This case is just about the worst I have come across in the town. The amount and type of waste being dumped in residential areas of Middlesbrough was appalling."

Councillor Barry Coppinger said: "This was an extreme case and I think everyone would agree that both the ban and fine are wholly deserved.

"I am afraid this trader acted with appalling negligence, without a thought for his customers, the town or the environment."

Sulman already has a conviction for breaching food standards at a Guisborough take-away. His solicitor said he intended to appeal against the latest decision.