aTHE owner of a grubby takeaway where inspectors found stashes of dirty equipment and uncovered meats stored alongside vegetables has narrowly avoided going to jail.

Ocean Queen in Morris Avenue, Billericay, was operating in grimey conditions and food was being stored in a manner that could have caused food poisoning, Basildon Crown Court heard.

Owner Tevfik Akyel, 53, who closed his business shortly after the inspection due to mounting debts, admitted 15 food hygiene breaches and was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, at court yesterday.

The court heard environmental health officers from Basildon Council had been warning Akyel he faced prosecution for the shop's poor hygiene standards for five years.

Officers visiting on September 14 last year found salads and sauces weren’t being refrigerated, uncovered meat in the fridge could potentially have contaminated other foods, surfaces and floors were dirty and cleaning fluids weren’t sufficient.

Bins were overflowing, meat was defrosting close to where vegetables were being prepared, grill pans were dirty and frozen foods were being stored inadequately.

Following the inspection, Akyel closed the takeaway he lived above for two days to thoroughly clean it before reopening, but shut it down last November because of financial difficulties.

The court heard the father-of-three was a trained structural engineer, but ended up in the fast food industry after moving to the UK in 2006 – a trade he had little knowledge of.

He claimed his lack of catering experience, coupled with limited finances to replace equipment at the takeaway, led to his business repeatedly falling below adequate hygiene standards – despite his best efforts to comply with council orders.

Judge Jonathan Black, sentencing, ordered Akyel to carry out 150 hours unpaid work in addition to the suspended prison sentence.

He told Akyel: “This was not the first time environmental health officers had visited your premises.

“Their advice was rendered on numerous occasions in the past and warnings given as to the prospect of prosecution.

“This sentencing is intended to send a warning to other fast food proprieters that if food stuffs are kept in dirty conditions, then those who come before the courts do face a custodial sentence.”