The Sunday Telegraph reports that Sydney’s filthiest restaurant has remained open for business despite being caught with a rats’ nest in its kitchen, live cockroaches in noodles and rat droppings in a serving bowl.

The Sun Garden Chinese Restaurant, at Lidcombe, has been caught seriously breaching food safety laws three times in three years – resulting in a record $78,000 fine – but authorities remain powerless to shut it down for good.

The case has exposed holes in NSW’s food standards enforcement regimen and sparked calls for an overhaul of the system. The NSW Food Authority, set up in 2004, does not operate a licensing system for restaurants – which, unlike butchers’ shops and stores selling primary produce, are not required to have a food licence.

Local councils can order restaurants to close temporarily to be cleaned up, but have no power to force repeat offenders to shut their doors permanently. It is understood no NSW restaurants have been shut down for food offences since the system began more than two years ago.

The Sun Garden Restaurant continued to open and serve food despite being fined $78,000 in Burwood Local Court in July for a litany of food safety offences, its third prosecution in three years.