Tesco deny dirty store despite 'mice infestation'

A TESCO boss has refused to accept the store was dirty despite a mice nest being found in the clothing department.

A TESCO boss has refused to accept the store was dirty despite a mice nest being found in the clothing department.

David Pearce, head of trading law and standards at Tesco, played down an infestation at the Extra outlet in Martlesham Heath between April 30 and August 15 2007, despite mice being seen on shelves by shoppers.

Speaking at East Suffolk Magistrate's Court today, Mr Pearce said: “This wasn't a particularly big problem.

“There were probably only one or two mice on the shop floor.”

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Tesco denies eight charges including having inadequate environmental health procedures and failing to 'pest proof' the building, brought by Suffolk Coastal District Council after it received reports of mice running through the store.

The court heard one shopper saw a mouse jump onto a sausage roll she was looking at on the shelf.

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A second mice nest was found in a bag of charcoal briquettes and a mouse dropping was found in a packet of crisps which had a corner nibbled.

But Mr Pearce defended the chain's decision not to close the store to tackle the problem.

He said: “I wouldn't say evidence of mouse activity was acceptable to us.

“We understood from Rentokil (a pest control firm) it was unnecessary to close the store to deal with it.

“We weren't seeing anything serious other than sporadic activity on the shop floor.”

Mr Pearce said Rentokil were called to tackle the infestation after a faulty chute to a waste compactor allowed mice to infest the shop's wall cavities, roof and eventually the shop floor.

But despite leaving baits to clear the problem, the store remained of the company's high concern list for four weeks.

He said: “Looking back on it, I can't think of a pest problem that has had so many resources thrown at it as this one.

“Environmental health officers had taken such a close interest in the matter, it was something we were keen to deal with.”

At an earlier hearing in May this year, Catherine Hinkling, the council's lead environmental health officer criticised the store's cleaning standards, saying the bakery, delicatessen and shop floor were regularly marked as 'poor' during weekly inspection audits by staff.

Geoffrey Stephenson, prosecuting, also told the earlier hearing a health inspector had found a number of 'attractor factors' such as decomposing food in the fresh produce.

He said: “In the fresh produce area, the health inspector found liquid spinach and decomposing fruit and vegetables mixed with mouse droppings.”

The trial continues tomorrow.

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