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homeWednesday 22nd May 2019

Tesco subsidiary pays out £90K for mice infestation

Katie Coyne17/08/2016 - 14:47

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Mice at One Stop Stores
Mice at One Stop Stores

A One Stop Stores outlet, owned by Tesco, has paid more than £90,000 after environmental health officers found a Preston shop was infested with mice.

Eight dead mice on glue boards and snap traps were found by an EHO during an unannounced inspection to the Ribbleton Avenue store, on 1 December 2014.

They also spotted mouse droppings on the store floor and shelving, and crisp packets had been gnawed open and some of the contents eaten.

A large fine was handed out due to the length of time the problem had been occurring, the seriousness of the issue and to reflect the £900m turnover of the company.

The pest problem had been ongoing from October 2013 and the store had been working with a pest control contractor that had been visiting the premises at least once a month. In court the problem was described as an ‘an infestation, but not large scale’ and ‘intermittent and low level’.

As the business did not volunteer to close after the EHO visit, and there was a significant and imminent risk to health, a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice was served on the morning of 1 December 2014, which was not challenged by One Stop Stores.

The shop was reopened within 24 hours –on the afternoon of 2 December 2014 - once inspectors were satisfied the underlying cause of the recurrent pest problem was investigated and work was done to clean up the store.

The judge noted that the speed at which the problem was tackled to re-open the shop emphasised the company’s failure to act earlier and said: ‘the defendant should have done far more to deal with the issue before environmental health got involved; and that the public are entitled to feel aghast and outraged at the situation’.

One Stop Stores Ltd pleaded guilty at Preston Magistrates’ Court on 27 January 2016 to two offences – adequate procedures were not in place to control pests and food was placed on the market that was unsafe.

Sentencing took place at Preston Crown Court on Thursday 4 August 2016 where One Stop were fined £80,000 and ordered to pay the council’s prosecution costs of £11,776.60.
Magistrates referred the case to Crown Court for sentencing as they felt the maximum fine available was insufficient.

Craig Sharp, head of Environmental Health at Preston City Council, said: ‘Every shop, large or small has to deal with the problem of mice. Responsible traders plan for it and deal with a problem quickly and effectively if it arises.

‘Whilst the company acted swiftly to deal with the problem following the visit on 1 December, it was subsequently discovered that the store had had problems with mice, intermittently, since at least 2013.

‘Mice carry a range of bacteria and viruses and the risk to pregnant women and immunosuppressed individuals in particular, has potentially serious consequences.

‘I hope that this case will serve as a warning to other food businesses that robust procedures need to be in place and actively monitored to ensure the public are protected.’

The company unreservedly apologised to the court, the local authority and loyal local customers and the director of property and the head of trading law were present at court.

The new sentencing guidelines were followed and summons 1 was Medium culpability, Harm Category 2. (There was no separate penalty for summons 2 as it was an illustration of summons 1, but it was medium culpability, harm category 3).

 

The fine had to be high to bring it home to the board and shareholders. The director attending court showed the seriousness the company viewed the case.

The issue for the judge was were in the bracket the starting point fell for the fine. The turnover of the company (£900m) and the length of time the problem went on for influenced the fine.

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