Tesco store was 'infested with rodents'

A TESCO supermarket became infested with rodents due to serious failings in environmental health procedures, a trial heard today.

Simon Tomlinson

A TESCO supermarket became infested with rodents due to serious failings in environmental health procedures, a trial heard today.

Mouse droppings were found in the fresh produce section after a customer spotted a rat running through the Martlesham Heath Tesco Extra store it is alleged.

The vermin had also built nests and gnawed clothes and bags of crisps a court in Ipswich was told.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has brought eight charges against the retailer which include having inadequate procedures in place to deal with rodents and failing to “test proof” the building.

Tesco denies the charges which relate to incidents between April 30, 2007 and August 15, 2007.

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Prosecutor Geoffrey Stephenson said health inspectors were alerted by a customer who claimed to have seen a rat in the store.

When they arrived at the premises in Anson Road the store manager admitted there was a problem with mice in the warehouse, dairy and fresh produce section.

Mr Stephenson said: “In the fresh produce area the health inspector found liquid spinach and decomposing fruit and vegetables mixed with mice droppings.”

Officers also found congealed fat embedded with mice excrement and waste food was stored in crates in the warehouse which also served as an “attractor factor” for rodents, claimed Mr Stephenson.

District Judge David Cooper was told that Tesco was aware of the problem around six weeks before health officers at Suffolk Coastal became involved.

Mr Stephenson said: “It is also clear that staff were taking steps to deal with it. Rentokil (pest control company) were involved, there is nothing wrong with that but it didn't work in this case.”

He said the store manager also refused to take advice about preventative measures.

A number of concerns were also raised over the construction of the food premises. Gaps in the waste disposal chute - known as a compactor - allowed mice to climb into the wall cavities. Health officers also found rotting food around the compactor area.

Mr Stephenson said: “On the evidence there is no doubt that the premises were not kept clean or pest proof.”

South East Suffolk Magistrates Court also heard from Catherine Hickling, an environmental health officer at Suffolk Coastal. Mrs Hickling said she considered issuing an emergency health prohibition notice when she became aware of the problem.

Actions could have ranged from preventing practises or equipment being used to closing down the whole store.

She said there were six inch gaps between the floor and the plastic cladding around the storage area. “It is an obvious potential point of access for rodents in the building,” she added.

She also said that a member of the public saw a rat running across a chiller cabinet containing sausage rolls in aisle 24.

The trial continues.