A whole rat has been found inside a tin of baked beans, it was disclosed today.
The dead rat climbed or fell into the tin at the factory, according to a post mortem which established it had been entombed during tinning.
A cook discovered the rodent on opening the catering tin.
The tin’s manufacturer has not been disclosed by a local authority, but an ongoing investigation into the incident in January may lead to legal action.
Britain's most famous baked bean manufacturer, Heinz, issued a statement denying it was "in any way connected to this incident."
Premier Foods, which owns Branston and HP, said: "We have no record of any such case or investigation."
The local authority public analyst heading the inquiry said the rat’s presence indicated “severe failings somewhere in the food production process.”
“This one of the ultimate horror stories,” he said.
“The rat had come to an untimely end, but was not possible to say if it had died before or after it got into the beans. But enzymatic tests established that it had been through the canning process. A post mortem examination showed that it hadn't eaten recently - it had not enjoyed a last meal of baked beans"
Public analysts say the rat is an extreme example of the kind of public health risks in the food system.
They fear there is widespread fraud, such as the counterfeiting of vodka with methanol that can blind and the covert addition of large amounts of water and beef and pork proteins to bulk up cheap chicken. Mentioning the food fraud scandals of Victorian Britain, Dr Duncan Campbell, president of the Association of Public Analysts, said: “Today adulteration and fraud are still with us, as are concerns over unwanted residues in our food.”
Public analysts will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the introduction a law against the adulteration of food and drink at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London next week.