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Croydon Poundworld fined £1.2m for 'out of control' infestation of mice

A branch of Poundworld has been fined almost £1.2 million after inspectors found an 'out of control' infestation of mice.

Credit: Croydon Council

Council food safety officers found the shop was dirty and littered with mouse droppings, with gnawed food packaging on display and rodent urine and faeces found in a store room.

Credit: Croydon Council

Some products' gnawed packaging had been 'repaired' with adhesive tape and returned to the shop shelves for sale.

The store in Croydon, south London, has now been fined almost £1.2 million after admitting five food safety offences and two breaches of health and safety at work regulations.

Credit: Croydon Council

The smell of rodents' urine was discernible upon immediate approach to the food section of the store.

– Judge Smaller, Croydon Crown Court

The council was alerted after a member of the public claimed to have seen evidence of a rodent infestation on the shopfloor of the store in February 2016.

Officers visited and found the infestation, before consulting with the store management, who agreed to immediately stop the sale of food.

The basement and storage areas were also found to be contaminated with mouse droppings, while some areas were too dark.

The goods lift was out of order, forcing staff members having to manually carry goods up to the shopfloor, and no risk assessment had been carried out for this.

There was also no hot water, inadequate heating and poor housekeeping, which resulted in stock being left in a haphazard and dangerous manner.

Poundworld was bought by Poundworld Bidco Ltd in May 2015 on behalf of funds controlled by TPG Capital, a global private equity investment firm with assets worth more than £57 billion.

Court-requested details of TPG were "respectfully declined" by the defendant's counsel after he said Poundworld, TPG and other companies are 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.

– Judge Smaller, Croydon Crown Court

I am pleased to see that by imposing such a substantial level of fines and costs, the courts take seriously the matter of food retailers' responsibility to ensure they adhere to legal requirements designed to protect the health and safety of their customers and staff.

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.

– Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice

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.

– Poundworld statement