Czech authorities have asked businesses to pay more attention to maintenance and hygiene after they closed 21 sites in January.

It was the highest monthly number of closed establishments in the past five years. In the same period in 2021, inspectors from the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (SZPI) closed six establishments and in January 2020 it was 15 sites.

Findings cover a range of establishments such as restaurants, pubs, patisseries, fast food outlets, large chain stores, retailers and food producers.

Inspectors place a ban on using the premises when conditions at the establishment do not allow the safety of foodstuffs or meals to be guaranteed and there is a risk to public health.

Pest control gaps
The most frequent reason for closing establishments in 2022 was the failure to prevent pests, especially rodents. Inspections of stores found the presence of mouse droppings, food damaged by mice and, in some cases, dead or live mice.

Officials said many operators had not been regularly checking extermination monitoring stations, which can detect the presence of pests before it becomes a bigger problem and spreads. Pests and their droppings pose a serious risk to the health of consumers.

Other offences included long-term neglected cleaning, dirty floors and shelves and mold at the premises or in refrigeration facilities; storage of items unrelated to the sale of food and unmanaged waste removal.

If poor hygiene conditions are found, inspectors impose an on-the-spot ban on use of the premises. They also order the operator to correct the deficiencies found. During a re-inspection, the inspectors assess whether the operator has brought the site into compliance with the requirements and, if so, they lift the ban. Administrative proceedings are then started to impose a fine.

Problems with meat origin and transport conditions
Meanwhile, the State Veterinary Administration (SVS) helped uncover more than 300-kilograms of animal products of unknown origin in one store in a market in Prague.

More than 100-kilograms of poultry was found with no identification and proof of origin. The same issue affected 75-kilograms of meat products stored on site. Another 80-kilograms of fishery products were found in a freezer with no markings.

Veterinary inspectors prevented sale of the items and ordered the disposal of 316-kilograms of products. Officials said it was not possible to verify where the animals were kept, whether they were healthy or had been given medication.

During the joint inspection with customs officers, issues were also found with transported foodstuffs of non-animal origin. This case was passed onto the SZPI, which is the agency responsible for such products.

The operator will be fined with legislation allowing for a penalty of up to Czech Koruna 50 million ($2 million).

In another operation, SVS staff found 10 tons of frozen meat being transported in poor hygienic conditions.

During an inspection of a truck with a Polish license plate, officials found the refrigeration unit in the vehicle was not working. The meat was to be used to make chicken kebabs.

This means the temperature set by the kebab manufacturer, which was to be a maximum of minus 18 degrees C (-0.4 degrees F), was not observed. Veterinary inspectors measured the temperature of products at minus 6.2 degrees C to minus 7 degrees C (20.8 degrees F to 19.4 degrees F) and noticed it had already partially thawed, so blocked the consignment.

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