Discount chain store Poundstretcher has been fined over £7,000 by magistrates after admitting four food hygiene offences.
Officers from Pembrokeshire County Council’s Public Protection Division found an active mouse infestation at the company’s store on the Bridge Meadow retail park in Haverfordwest.
The town’s magistrates were told that the case followed an investigation in July, 2014, when the Division’s Food Safety and Standards Team received a complaint indicating a possible rodent problem at the store.
Officers discovered an active mouse infestation with widespread evidence of droppings in areas where foods were stored and displayed. They also found evidence of gnawed food.
Pest control records suggested that the problem had first come to light in March, 2013, correlating with an infestation identified at one of the company’s distribution warehouses that had led to infested products being sent out to stores around the country.
Despite the problem having been identified centrally by Poundstretcher and stores being alerted, management failed to ensure that appropriate steps were taken at a local level to apply relevant safeguards.
In particular, the court heard how store management had failed to recognise the significance of the pest problem highlighted by their appointed pest contractors.
They failed to ensure that the matter was escalated appropriately and failed to ensure an appropriate level of housekeeping to prevent possible pest harbourage and to enable the timely and effective identification and assessment of pest problems. Many of these issues were attributed to a core problem of inadequate staff training, instruction and supervision.
The store closed by voluntary agreement to allow affected stock to be identified and removed from sale and for cleaning and disinfection to take place and additional pest control measures to be applied.
It was only allowed to reopen once officers were satisfied with the progress that had been made.
As a consequence of the poor inspection, the store also received a Food Hygiene Rating of 0 (zero). Magistrates took into consideration both the early plea and previous convictions, and fined the company £1,500 for each of the offences of relating to the failure to protect food from the risk of contamination; failure to ensure adequate procedures were in place to control pests, and failure to ensure adequate materials were available for cleaning hands.
A further fine of £3,000 was imposed for the lack of adequate training, instruction and supervision.
The Company was also ordered to pay the Council’s full costs of £4,755.94, plus a victim surcharge of £120.
After the hearing, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Environmental and Regulatory Services, Councillor Huw George, said: “The sentence again underlines the importance of food businesses ensuring that food handlers receive appropriate training.
“It is vital they recognise and understand matters that are important from a food safety perspective and that they are clear on the practices and procedures that are needed to safeguard the public in this respect – backed up by effective management supervision.
“An awareness of potential pest problems – and how to recognise and respond to these effectively – is a basic and fundamental requirement in any food business.”