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£1m fine for rodent urine covered food products

Stuart Spear22/03/2018 - 12:48

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Sale of food ceased immediately
Sale of food ceased immediately

The budget chain store Poundworld has been fined over £1m for food and health and safety offences after a court heard customers could smell rodent urine as they approached the shop’s food section. 

The prosecution follows an inspection of the budget chain store’s Croydon branch. EHOs from Croydon Council were tipped off about potential food safety breaches after a member of the public reported evidence of a rodent infestation on the shop floor.

EHOs visiting the store found an out of control infestation with the shop dirty and littered with mouse droppings, gnawed food on display with rodent urine and faeces found over packaging and products. 

Some products that had been gnawed by rodents and then covered in adhesive tape and put back on the shelves for sale. Her Honour Judge Smaller told Croydon Crown Court: ‘The smell of rodents’ urine was discernible upon immediate approach to the food section of the store.’

Management agreed to immediately cease the sale of food.

The basement and storage areas were found to also be contaminated with mouse droppings, while some areas were in darkness due to inadequate lighting. The goods lift was not working leaving staff to carry goods up to the shop floor. No risk assessment had been carried out for the task.

EHOs also found there was no hot water in the store, inadequate heating and poor management resulting in sock being discarded in a haphazard manner.

At an earlier hearing Poundworld, in North End admitted five food safety offences and two breaches of health and safety at work regulations.

Poundworld was fined £660,000 for the food safety offences and £500,000 for one health and safety offence, the second receiving no penalty.  Costs of £30,409 were awarded to the council as well as a £120 victim surcharge. The total fine came to £1,190, 529.

During the case the court heard that Poundworld had in May 2015 been acquired by Poundworld Bidco Ltd on behalf of funds controlled by TPG capital, a global private equity investment firm with assets worth more than $80bn.

The Court request for details of the business of TPG Capital to help it set a fine was ‘respectfully’ declined by the defendant’s counsel who argued there the companies were not linked organisations.

‘In the absence of being given sufficient reliable information I am entitled to draw reasonable inferences that Poundworld can pay any fine,’ said Judge Smaller.

Commenting on the size of the fine Hamida Ali, Croydon Council cabinet member for communities and safety said: ‘The degree to which this company failed to uphold cleanliness and safety standards in its premier town-centre store beggars belief and the financial penalty imposed is, to most people’s minds I am sure, entirely justified.’ 


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