Cats in the kitchen !

Some cafe and restaurant owners have been caught with animals such as mangy stray cats, pet dogs and ibis in their kitchens, putting their customers at serious risk of food contamination.

A Public Defender investigation reveals six shops have been issued with steep fines in the past 12 months for keeping live animals in their food preparation areas.

In some cases, council health and safety inspectors discovered the animals were being fed within the kitchen area, with pet food either poured into bowls or placed on newspaper on the floor. In one case, a wild game hunter was caught keeping his freshly slaughtered pig, destined for human consumption, beside his hunting dogs.

At Alpha Hot Bread in Campsie, health inspectors found a cat living in a plastic box in a food storage room, complete with a container of cat food and a pile of kitty litter on a piece of cardboard on the cement floor.
While the inspectors were present, another stray cat walked into the premises through the open back door.

Owner Thi An Nguyen told inspectors the cat had just been given to her and she had not had a chance to take it home. She received a $330 fine and was also reprimanded for not washing her hands after using the toilet and handling animals.

Alpha Hot Bread is now under new ownership.

At the Mulbring General Store in Kurri Kurri, inspectors discovered an unleashed dog wandering through food preparation areas and eating dry dog food from a bowl. When contacted, employee Mary Ann said they were “not sorry”.

Some restaurants, including the popular dumpling destination New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant in Ashfield, were fined for attracting feral animals, stray cats and birds by leaving boxes of unprepared food unprotected at the rear of the property.

Its publicist was apologetic, saying the outlet “takes their hygiene very seriously” and “they’re very proactive in the security of their guests and the hygiene of their restaurant”.

The NSW Food Authority’s director of enforcement and compliance Peter Day said some cafes caught feeding animals in their shops were repeat offenders.

“It is certainly something we are very strict on because cats and dogs are well known as … carriers of a number of diseases and parasites that can easily be transmitted to humans,” he said.

“The biggest danger is toxoplasmosis, which is fairly prevalent in cats and can be a transmitted to humans through food.”

Another to flout health and safety laws was the Indian Mart at Westmead, which has since changed ownership.