The owner of a Canberra restaurant that was shut down after rat poo was discovered in a bucket of raw rice has been fined $10,000 for breaches of the food standards code.
Sisouk Rajbandith pleaded guilty to six breaches following an ACT Health inspection at her restaurant, Two Sisters Lao Thai Cuisine, in the Sydney building in Civic in July last year.
The restaurant, which Rajbandith sold in September this year, was slapped with a prohibition notice and it took her eight days to bring it back up to scratch.
At her sentencing in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday, Acting Chief Magistrate Glenn Theakston said photographs of the premises showed "a large amount of what can only be described as filth".
There was evidence of rodent and cockroaches, including rat poo in buckets of raw rice in the storage room. Food was stored uncovered and the restaurant was generally unclean.
There was no functional hand washing station, and no food grade sanitiser in the restaurant, and holes in the walls and ceilings throughout, allowing pests to enter and hide.
Rajbandith, who still owns the Two Sisters restaurant in Dickson, told the court she had been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years and that nothing like this had happened to her before.
She blamed the condition of the ancient Sydney building for the difficulties in keeping out pests even with regular pest control, and told the court the building needed lots of maintenance.
She said she was embarrassed and saddened and felt sorry for what she had done. "And I hope it's not going to happen again," she said.
Rajbandith's sister had been put in charge of the restaurant after another sister left Canberra, but she was having family troubles, the court heard. Rajbandith said she accepted responsibility as the Civic restaurant's licensee.
The court heard that after the prohibition notice Rajbandith had completed a refresher training course on food safety. She had since sold the Civic restaurant in order to be able to focus on the Dickson establishment.
Mr Theakston fined the woman $10,000 for the six breaches, noting her remorse and guilty pleas.
But he said he needed to denounce her conduct and send a clear message to proprietors that there was "no profit from allowing a restaurant to fall into such a state."
The woman has six months to pay.