Waiter, there’s a cockroach on my plate
The owner of a vegan restaurant in Canberra has been fined $16,000 for breaching food safety regulations, after choosing not to rid his business of cockroaches on moral grounds.
Fairfax reports Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant was handed the fine in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon.
Restaurant owner Khanh Hoang was originally charged with 12 breaches of the Food Act after ACT Health inspectors found live and dead cockroaches in the venue’s kitchen in April 2013.
On Thursday, Hoang was convicted and charged $2000 for eight counts and given 12 months to pay the fine.
According to court documents seen by Fairfax, Kingsland received its operation certificate in December 2012 but health inspectors visited the restaurant four months later following a tip-off from customers.
Along with a cockroach infestation, the inspectors found food stored incorrectly, dirty kitchen walls, benches and equipment and faulty hand-washing facilities.
The restaurant was forced to close its doors but re-opened six days later after the breaches had been rectified.
Hoang admitted in a meeting with the Health Protection Service in June 2013 that he knew about the cockroaches but chose not to exterminate the insects because it would involve “killing little creatures”.
Magistrate Maria Doogan heard this week that Hoang has passionate vegan values but now accepts his morals had been misguided at the time.
Evidence presented to the court showed the kitchen at Kingsland is now “immaculate” and Hoang brings a pest control team into the venue on a regular basis and has appointed a food safety supervisor.
Doogan took this evidence into account when handing down her ruling, along with the business’ limited capacity to pay the fine and its loss of reputation from the incident.
Independent branding expert Michel Hogan told SmartCompany regardless of moral or philosophical beliefs, anyone starting a business must understand the rules and regulations of their industry, as well as the “baseline expectations of their customers”.
“If whatever reason you cannot meet those expectations or play within the boundaries, find a different business to start,” Hogan says.
In this case, Hogan says the restaurant’s reputation will have undoubtedly suffered, but she says it has no one to blame but itself.
“Ignorance is not a defense,” she says.
SmartCompany contacted Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant and ACT Health but did not receive a response prior to publication.