Mice gnawed food on discount store’s shelves

Poundstretcher, Houghton Regis
Poundstretcher, Houghton Regis

National retail chain Poundstretcher has been fined £26,000 after mouse droppings were found in its Houghton Regis store and warehouse.

Environmental health officers also discovered food gnawed by mice on the shelves of the Bedford Square shop.

The discount goods company was prosecuted by Central Bedfordshire Council for hygiene offences and pleaded guilty at Luton Magistrates Court on Monday.

Council environmental experts visited the store on 
January 22, 2013 to follow up a report of mice in the building.

Contaminated food was identified and disposed of, but despite assurances from Poundstretcher’s pest control contractor that there would be daily pest control visits, no such visits were made between January 25 and 31, 2013.

Poundstretcher admitted five offences and magistrates fined the company a total of £26,000. The retailer agreed to pay the council’s full costs of just over £6,000.

The court heard that mouse activity at the shop had first been reported to head office by the store manager on November 2, 2012.

Poundstretcher’s barrister asked the magistrates to take account of the guilty pleas when sentencing as this had saved further court time by avoiding the need for a full trial.

Councillor Brian Spurr said after the hearing: “Businesses have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their customers.

“Premises serving or selling food who neglect basic hygiene standards are knowingly putting people’s health at risk and we will have no hesitation in prosecuting businesses who fail their customers in this way.”

Poundstretcher company secretary Martin Collinson told the Gazette yesterday: “This was an isolated case at one of our 400 stores some time ago, but we apologise to our customers.

“As a result of this incident, we have reviewed our pest control procedures and taken preventative action.

“We now have two pest control companies doing regular visits to all our stores, so that if there is any evidence of mice they can block up holes or put down traps to solve the problem.”