Tesco was hit with a £57,000 court bill on Monday after a “super mouse” was discovered in a filthy store plagued by an extreme rodent infestation.
A health inspector spotted the oversized mouse – which had been gorging on protein and leaving unusual pink droppings – in a food crate at the Tesco Metro shop in Covent Garden, where 55,000 customers shop each week.
Rotting rodent corpses were also unearthed in the dairy fridge in the Bedford Street store’s warehouse, emitting an “unbearable” smell and causing a “large risk of contamination” to food, a court heard. Mouse droppings were found on the shop floor, as well as on bakery packaging.
Food waste was also discovered across the store’s warehouse and storage areas, while the floors were covered in grease and dirt.
Customers alerted Westminster City Council after spotting mice scurrying across the shopfloor on 23 March last year. Environmental health officers warned staff there was a mouse infestation, but they left it to the cleaner before a second inspection three days later.
Ordering Tesco to pay £45,000 in fines with £11,822 costs at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said: “One might have expected the company to react vigorously but it did not.
“Nothing happened over the weekend and when officers returned the following Monday, a further complaint was made by a member of the public and the situation was the same if not worse.
“It is remarkable that something like this should occur within an organisation such as Tesco, which has to be so careful with it’s reputation. But I am satisfied this was a local and specified failure of management and one that has been dealt with.”
Tesco had pleaded guilty to six food hygiene offences at an earlier hearing.In a statement, the supermarket conceded the standard of cleaning fell below acceptable levels but said robust health and safety procedures had now been put in place. “Pest control is one of our biggest priorities and we regret the pest problem was not resolved more quickly,” it said.
James Armitage, Westminster City Council’s Food Safety manager, said: “The sentence recognises the seriousness of what was a flagrant breach of food safety laws. It doesn’t matter if it is a sole trader or a large superstore, the rules are the same.”