Discount retailer Poundworld has been fined nearly £1.2m after an “out-of-control” rodent infestation was discovered at one of its shops.
Some packets of food had been repaired with sticky tape and placed back on shelves for sale after being gnawed by rodents.
“The smell of rodents’ urine was discernible upon immediate approach to the food section of the store,” said judge Elizabeth Smaller, who fined the company at Croydon Crown Court.
Poundworld was charged with health and safety and food hygiene offences after a customer reported seeing evidence of rodents at the shop to Croydon Council.
The local authority said its inspectors discovered “an out-of-control infestation” on visiting the store in February 2016.
The shop floor, storeroom and basement were all contaminated with mouse droppings.
Poundworld agreed to stop selling food in the branch and later admitted five food safety offences.
It also pleaded guilty to two breaches of workplace health and safety regulations, after inspectors found staff were forced to carry goods up to the shop floor because the lift did not work.
The store also had no hot water, inadequate heating and was poorly maintained, which the council said resulted in stock “being left in a haphazard and dangerous manner”.
“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’m sure – entirely justified," said councillor Hamida Ali, the cabinet member for communities, safety and justice.
A Poundworld spokesman said: “The safety and comfort of our customers and employees is of the utmost importance to us and we apologise for the unacceptable conditions found at our Croydon store in February 2016.
“As soon as we learnt about the problem at the store, we worked very closely with Trading Standards and undertook immediate action to remedy all of the issues highlighted during their visit.
“The store was inspected again by Trading Standards in September 2016 and was awarded a four-star rating. We have taken the necessary steps to help ensure that the unacceptable conditions found at our Croydon store never happen again.”