Cockroaches, mice and filthy cloths were among the horrors encountered by food safety inspectors at Sheffield's most unhygienic eateries.
Four establishments in the city were awarded a zero food hygiene rating, meaning urgent improvement is necessary, following visits by council officers.
They were: Al Khartoum Restaurant, in Ellesmere Road, Burngreave; Lotus House, in East Bank Road, Arbourthorne; Steel City Cakes, in Abbeydale Road; and U Buffet, in West Street, Sheffield city centre.
Across the city, 163 premises scored two or lower, meaning hygiene was deemed unsatisfactory, but more than 2,100 of the 3,600 outlets reviewed achieved the top score of five.
The Star has seen the full reports for all four zero-rated premises, which were provided by Sheffield Council on December 6 in response to a Freedom of Information request.
Those reports reveal the potentially dangerous conditions and practices discovered which posed a potential health hazard to customers.
It is important to note that these premises may have since made the recommended improvements and now merit a higher score, pending a follow-up inspection.
At Al Khartoum Restaurant, which was visited on May 24, inspectors found evidence of a cockroach infestation and said the owner had agreed to voluntarily close the business until the risk of contamination was eliminated.
The premises were also found to be 'dirty' and in need of a 'thorough clean', and the inspector said no food handlers were seen washing their hands during the visit.
The Star was unable to contact the owner.
At Lotus House, which was visited on August 4, cleaning cloths were found in a 'soiled condition', raw meat was stored dangerously close to ready-to-eat food, and concerns were raised about a lack of temperature monitoring.
The Star attempted to contact the restaurant but received no response.
At Steel City Cakes, which was inspected on September 25, mouse droppings were found behind fridges and storage units, cakes were inadequately covered and there was no hot water to the sinks or separate basin for hand-washing.
The Star attempted to contact the cake and coffee shop but was told the owner was on holiday and no one else was available to comment.
At U Buffet, which was visited on August 25, 'filthy' cloths were found, little hand-washing was observed between handling raw foods and cooking, and many foods in the fridge were not date-coded, as is advised.
Raymond Lee, the owner, said all the recommended improvements had since been made and he was confident the premises would pass muster when a follow-up inspection is made.
He also insisted 'no major problem' was identified by the inspector and only 'minor' improvements had been required.
Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for environment at Sheffield Council, said: "Here in Sheffield we have around 3,500 businesses that have a food hygiene rating. It is testament to not only business owners' high standards but also the good work of my officers that only four of those are currently awarded zero stars.
"We at Sheffield City Council take firm and decisive action against those businesses which do not reach the required standards, including issuing notices to improve and taking business owners to court where necessary.
"Last month, for example, the owner of one hot food takeaway was fined more than £8,000 by magistrates after we prosecuted him for failing to comply with five food hygiene improvement notices.
"We try our hardest to work with food businesses to provide advice and support on how to comply with food hygiene regulations and avoid legal action. This is both to protect public health and to help businesses gain a good food hygiene rating.
"However, sometimes business owners repeatedly fail to take note of this advice and we are forced to take enforcement action.
"Businesses should note that serious or repeated failures to comply with Environmental Health officers' requests and legal notices can and will result in prosecution proceedings being taken by the council."
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