UK bargain retailer Poundland has been fined £24,000.00 and ordered to pay almost £3,000.00 in costs after admitting breaches of food safety and food hygiene legislation.
Following consumer complaints, Environmental Health Officers inspected the firm’s Croydon store in November 2011 and found food gnawed by mice had been re-sealed and displayed for sale. The mice had managed to get into a storage area containing chocolate products which the mice had nibbled.
The company entered guilty pleas to offences including failing to withdraw food that was unfit for human consumption, failing to protect food from contamination, failing to prevent the entry of mice and failing to keep the store clean and in good repair and condition.
Reports of the case indicate that Poundland’s pest controller had visited the store shortly before the EHOs inspection and had made recommendations for improved cleaning and laying mouse traps. It appears that these recommendations had not been implemented by the time of the inspection. It was also noted that the shelves in the store had not been cleaned for some time.
The case is another warning to retailers of the importance of creating and following procedures that protect the safety of foodstuffs and of the severe consequences of failing to do so. Apart from the financial costs associated with the investigation, carrying out remedial work and the court case, the damage to reputation of a business involved in this type of incident can be incalculable.
Retailers should review their policies and procedures to ensure they are sufficiently robust and they should carry out appropriate training and check that tasks, such as cleaning and pest proofing, have been carried out properly so that these problems do not affect their stores.