Swindon food shop forced shut after inspectors find 'worst rat infestation in years'

Large quantities of rat droppings were found on the shelves and floor of India Bazzar on Broad Street. Credit: Swindon Borough Council

A grocery store in Swindon has been forced to shut after inspectors found a rat infestation.

India Bazzar on Broad Street in the town centre will remain closed until permission is granted for it to reopen.

Swindon Borough Council's Environmental Health team discovered the 'significant rat infestation' during a routine food hygiene inspection on Thursday 2 November.

On inspection, council officers immediately noticed large quantities of rat droppings on the floor, and on shelving, and identified large quantities of food items, including ready-to-eat foods such as biscuits, pastries, salt and peanuts which had been gnawed by the rodents.

A bag of flour was on display, stained with rat urine.

There was also evidence of gnawed bags of food being taped over and placed back on the shelves for sale. As there were clear signs of an infestation, officers served a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice formally closing the business.

There was evidence to suggest gnawed bags of food were taped over and placed back on the shelves for sale Credit: Swindon Borough Council

Swindon Magistrates Court issued an emergency prohibition order on Tuesday 28 November, stopping the shop from reopening.

The court heard how one of the Council’s Environmental Health team described it as the worst rat infestation she had seen in her 24-year career.

Kumaravelu Muthu, the sole director of India Bazzar (PVT) Ltd, told council officers he had tried to control the infestation with rat grain bait and block bait, and attempted to fill holes with netting material, but that he did not have a pest control contract.

Prosecuting solicitor, Daryl Bigwood, representing the Council, described how, during a follow-up visit, council officers had found the business had undertaken pest proofing works and a pest controller had been engaged, with a five-day treatment plan still finding rats on the last day.

An annual contract has now been arranged and the business is waiting for pest control to attend and undertake checks.

Mr Muthu was ordered to pay the Council’s costs of £2,000.

The shop owner did not have a pest control contract. Credit: Swindon Borough Council

Councillor Jim Grant, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Joint Working and Communities, said: “Our food hygiene team carries out hundreds of inspections each year and in the vast majority of cases they find businesses are meeting the required standards.

“They do, though, come across cases like this from time to time where they need to take immediate action to protect the health and safety of customers.

“This was one of the worst rat infestations our long-standing officer had seen. I am pleased magistrates extended the closure so the business owner can get this situation under control and ensure it never happens again.

“With the weather getting colder, now is the time where rats look to find food and warmer conditions and this is where infestations can take hold.

"It is incredibly important that all businesses have the appropriate pest control checks in place so we do not see situations like this in future.”