A superstore in Somerset has been fined more than £600,000 after a 'severe' rat infestation was found by council inspectors.
The Range Home and Leisure, in Taunton, operating under CDS (Superstores International) Ltd, pleaded guilty to seven food hygiene offences in September.
During a sentencing hearing at Taunton Magistrates Court on Monday 4 December, the store was fined £960,000, reduced to £640,000 for an early guilty plea.
The business was also ordered to pay Somerset Council the full cost of taking the case to court, amounting to around £26,000.
Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, from Somerset Council said the fine "recognises the significance of the rat infestation in the business and the potential this had to cause harm to human health."
Somerset Council said it first received a complaint about a "severe rat infestation" in the store in March 2022.
Officers carried out an 8-month investigation involving more than 20 visits, during which they found both pet and human food that had been gnawed.
The council said rat droppings were also found on shelves next to food in the shop area and warehouse.
An Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Notice was served in August 2022 to prohibit the business from selling food for human consumption.
One month later, the Magistrates Court upgraded the Notice into an Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Order.
During subsequent monitoring visits, Somerset Council said it found the Order had been broken, and that food was being sold which could have caused an imminent health risk.
The court heard the business failed to control the rat activity and act upon the advice given by the council and their contracted pest control company.
The business also failed to protect food from contamination and keep the premises clean and maintained in a clean condition, the court was told.
Cllr Smith Roberts said: "Environmental Health Officers across Somerset work hard to ensure food businesses are compliant with food safety legislation and will take enforcement action where necessary in line with the Somerset Council Enforcement Policy."
The Range acknowledged the issue was "serious," and said "measures to combat the issue were taken at the time."
In a statement, a spokesperson said: “As a responsible retailer, we strive to attain and maintain the highest standards of food safety for our customers.
"We are disappointed that we did not meet our own high standards on this occasion and while it was a complex situation at just one of our stores, we do acknowledge this is a serious matter.
They added: "Steps have been taken across all our stores to prevent the risk of recurrence and as a company, we will continue to put the health and safety of our colleagues and valued customers first."