A pound shop has been fined and charged more than £46,000 after a series of environmental health breaches, including a rat infestation and blocking a fire exit. A dead rat and droppings, “filthy” staff room and toilets and blocked access points were among the issues uncovered by health and safety inspectors during a visit to Poundstretcher in Minstergate, Thetford, in March 2014.
Their investigation culminated in fines and charges totalling £46,547.83 being imposed at Norwich Magistrates’ Court last Wednesday.
The two biggest fines, of £13,000 each, were imposed for unsafe handling and storage of stock, and obstructed access and blocked emergency escape routes.
Four other fines of £3,000 were imposed for food-related breaches, while legal costs came to more than £8,000.
Six breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act were found by Breckland Council’s Environmental Health Team, who were tipped off to the store’s problems by an anonymous complaint in January 2014.
Poundstretcher made assurances that action would be taken following that initial visit, according to the council.
But a follow-up visit two months later revealed the full extent of the contraventions, and led to the store signing up to a voluntary closure agreement to protect public safety.
The storage and retail of food was also stopped until the rat infestation had been addressed.
Monitoring of the store continued to ensure that contaminated stock was appropriately disposed of and not sold.
Food retailing was suspended until a number of weeks later, when all pest-related issues had been addressed and the rat infestation eradicated.
The company has since refitted the store and rolled out a national food safety management system across all its stores.
Michael Wassell, leader of Breckland Council, said the fine would “send a message”: “This company did not take proper measures to protect the general public or their staff, and did not act promptly to address the serious hazards identified when advice was given by council officers.
“We take our responsibility to protect public health very seriously and will not tolerate such poor standards.
“This prosecution will send a clear message that, whilst we are here to provide help and advice, failure to take corrective action will always result in formal enforcement.”
Poundstretcher are yet to respond to a request for comment.