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23 February 2010, 05:54 | Updated: 23 February 2010, 05:56
Tesco Stores Limited was yesterday found guilty of a number of serious offences relating to its store in Anson Road, Martlesham after Suffolk Coastal's food safety team reported a catalogue of problems there in 2007.
Because of poor cleansing and inadequate procedures, parts of the store had become dirty and mice were active in many areas, with the public reporting seeing them running around the shop floor.
"This is quite a shocking case where basic procedures appear to have been ignored and inadequate measures taken to put right what had clearly become quite a significant and very public problem with mice," said Cllr Sherrie Green, Cabinet Member for Community Health.
"It is bad enough not to have had in place the basic safeguards that would have prevented rodents gaining access to the store, but I am amazed at the lack of serious action then taken to put an end to the problem.
"This case first went to Court in May 2008, after which it was regularly adjourned as Tesco requested more time to prepare its detailed defence. Today's guilty verdicts only strengthens my disappointment that the management at the store failed to take the appropriate timely action. I can only hope that this will act as a warning to others that they must keep up their standards," added Cllr Green.
Suffolk Coastal first became involved after a complaint at the end of April 2007 from a member of the public that they had seen a live rodent on the shop floor at Tesco Extra.
The store's pest control records showed that there had been mice activity since the previous month, and that it had progressed from the warehouse and waste areas onto the retail and shop floor. Although private pest controllers had been called in, their visits were not on a daily basis.
The Council's food safety team's investigation on April 30 discovered food debris on the shop floor, and behind the counter of the delicatessen, as well as droppings in the hot deli area and in the warehouse.
"Our team was really concerned that cleaning was not being carried out properly in the store, leaving a number of attractive possible food sources for the mice. Further investigations traced the problem back to the waste compactor which was not pest proofed, a pretty basic error of judgement.
"The mice were attracted by the smell of the compactor and were feeding on the waste inside and initially nesting inside it. From there they moved into the store via a wall cavity where the failure to clean properly meant that conditions proved to be equally attractive.
"There were at least two breeding nests actually in the store, one between the clothing and fresh produce aisle, and the other in the barbeque aisle, and we eventually had five different members of the public report seeing live rodents in the store. The failure to follow basic procedures and to take serious action promptly meant that it was July last year before the problem was removed. Numerous visits were made by our officers to closely monitor the situation and ensure that there was not a serious enough risk to demand closure," added Cllr Green.
Tesco were found guilty of eight offences of failing to comply with European legislation Regulation (EC) 852/2004 Article 5, Annex II which specifies the hygiene rules that must be complied with by food business operators. Failure to comply with the Regulation is an offence under Regulation 17 (1) of the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006.
Tesco was fined £17,000 in total and were required to pay £57,000 towards the costs of Suffolk Coastal.
This is a full list of offences