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Health food chain fined over mouse droppings on shelves in Islington store

PUBLISHED: 15:52 21 September 2012

nibbled nuts at Holland and Barrett

nibbled nuts at Holland and Barrett

Archant

Major health food chain Holland & Barrett has been fined £30,000 after mouse droppings were found between packets of popcorn on sale at an Islington branch.

The firm was accused of “putting the public’s health at risk” after inspectors also found rat faeces at the Upper Street store, along with shelves and packets that were sticky with what is thought to be mouse urine.

There was a strong odour of mouse urine, they said, while packs of nuts and seeds had been gnawed open.

The company was handed a bill of £32,342 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to seven food hygiene offences at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court last week.

Horrified shopper Katie Shuford, 26, said: “That’s awful, especially considering it’s a health food store.

“I’ll have to take my business elsewhere.”

The catalogue of breaches came to light when Islington Council environmental health officers carried out surprise inspections on November 24 and December 1 and 2 last year.

The offences included contamination and failures to keep the premises clean, to ensure adequate procedures to control pests and to train staff properly.

On the first visit, inspectors found mouse droppings on shelves and underneath counters, but it appears little was done to improve the situation.

More mouse faeces were found on both following visits, some in between packets of popcorn, as well as rat droppings in a stockroom on December 1.

Instructions to put food packets in lidded containers were ignored.

Cllr Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said: “By ignoring our environmental health officers’ repeated interventions, the store put the public’s health at risk.

“The size of the fine shows how seriously the judge took this breach of public health.”

A Holland & Barrett spokesman said: “We are deeply disappointed in the failings in our risk management systems which allowed this to happen.

“Health and safety remains a priority for our customers and employees, and we hope to have significantly moved on since this event.”

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