FOOD outlets found to be flouting the law will face the full weight of legal powers Bradford Council has warned.

The message comes as a new report revealed the local authority's Food Safety Team prosecuted 18 food outlets and issued a further 75 warning notices in 12 months.

In the last financial year, four premises chose to close voluntarily, one was given an emergency prohibition order and on one occasion officers were forced to seize unsafe food.

The environmental health team in Bradford dealt with 831 reports of contagious disease during the year, including 673 cases of food poisoning - 96 of which were caused by salmonella bacteria, 107 cases of gastroenteritis and 35 cases of dysentery.

In one study, conducted with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to test the quality of imported fresh herbs, a sample of mint failed a test for E-Coli as it was contained an organism associated with faecal matter.

"The Council works hard to ensure that members of the public are not put at risk when eating out, and that food businesses in the district operate with the highest standards of hygiene.

"We provide lots of advice and guidance for food businesses and work with them to help them achieve and maintain the required standards.

"However if businesses fail in their responsibility then we will not hesitate to use the law to protect the public,” a Council spokesman.

"If people choose to continue to flout the law, our environmental health officers will use the courts to make sure food prepared and served in the district is safe for people to eat.”

Bradford East MP David Ward (Lib Dem), who has campaigned for food outlets to be forced to display their food hygiene ratings, said: "If there is evidence to show that more cases are being pursued through to the courts, then that is most welcome. If there’s a view from businesses that the law will not be followed up, some will try to get around it.

"People have a right to expect a guarantee of quality and safety. We have the laws, but it is vitally important the enforcement is in place."

The report will be discussed by the Environment and Waste Management Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday when members will be asked to actively support the promotion of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme - a local authority and FSA partnership initiative that includes information on more than 3,400 of the 4,152 food businesses across Bradford.

Ratings have improved for 2012/13, with 87 per cent of premises now having a rating of three, which indicates a business is "generally satisfactory," or above.

Premises with a five-star, or "very good," rating have risen by 1.7 per cent to 60.5 per cent. Those with a zero rating, where "urgent improvements" are necessary, have fallen by 0.3 per cent to one per cent.

Councillor Val Slater, the portfolio holder for environmental health, said: "The number of businesses with the highest rating and the number with nil or one has gone down although not as far as we would like to see and there is still more work to be done.

"It is one of the duties of the council to ensure food safety standards are adhered to and we take that seriously."

The Council carried out 3,028 'interventions' in 2013/14, which were a mix of inspections, sampling, and other visits to food premises to ensure safety in food production and safety.

All of the premises deemed to be in a "high-risk" category were inspected during 2013/14.

The most high-profile investigation in the last year centred on West Yorkshire Lamb, Beef and Poultry Ltd, an illegal meat processing plant at Iron Works Park on Bowling Back Lane, Bradford. It was feared about two tonnes of contaminated meat could have been entering the food chain every day.

In September 2013, the plant was raided by the Food Standards Agency, Bradford Council environmental health officers and Home Office Immigration Enforcement in which unhygienic poultry was seized and the business shut down.

It is understood that the a joint investigation into the company by the FSA and the council remains ongoing, with the new report stating that prosecution files against the firm have now been prepared.

Other notable cases included Bradford man Kamran Ajaib, 28, who was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay back more than £50,000 after admitting eight counts of food hygiene breaches at Bristol Crown Court in October 2013.

The court was told his company, Hamza Poultry, supplied meat to 60 firms in the south west while operating from a filthy illegal processing plant.

In January this year, Shaukat Zaman Khan, the former owner of Rafiqs Takeaway Ltd in West Bowling was given a six-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay £5,000 costs after a judge at Bradford Crown Court labelled his cockroach and mice-infested kitchen as a danger to the public.

In March, the same court banned Swami Sharma, the former owner of Grill Hut in Little Horton Lane, from running a food business after he admitted 20 food hygiene offences with a "flagrant disregard" for food safety rules.