Croydon bargain hunters got more bang for their buck with mouse droppings, rotting fruit and food waste all reported in two local branches of the 99p Store.
Discount chain Poundland has been fined £154,000 by Croydon Crown Court for multiple hygiene breaches as two 99p Stores, one in North End and the other in Crown Hill, acquired by the company this year, were found to be rife with rodents.
The company pleaded guilty to seven breaches of health and safety regulations across the two branches last year, with some produce described as “not fit for human consumption”.
Inspectors found that products on sale to the public were “sticky” with mouse urine, rodent excrement was visible on shelves and pests had gnawed through several boxes.
Delivering the verdict at Croydon Crown Court on Monday, Judge Peter Gower QC described how the company had fallen “far short of the appropriate standards” by not tackling the issue sooner.
Speaking in court, Gower said: “If [the company] did not completely ignore, it certainly failed adequately to act on the concerns raised by its independent contractors.”
The council was alerted to the problem in last August, when it received several customer complaints about conditions in the North End branch.
Despite the council’s attempts to interview representatives from the company, multiple demands were ignored.
Inspectors found evidence of mouse droppings, rotting fruit and food waste across the shop floor. There were similar scenes at the Crown Hill branch in last October, which forced a temporary closure.
A pest control company said that they had captured at least 20 mice by the following day.
Examining evidence in court, Gower said: “On entering [the officers] noticed a strong smell of mouse urine, mouse droppings on shelves containing foodstuffs, such as breakfast cereals and biscuits.”
“Bags of crisps were sticky to the touch and covered in mouse urine. In the warehouse there was a strong smell of urine. Droppings were present in the basement and there was a hole in the fire escape door allowing rodents access.”
A spokesman for Poundland told Eastlondlines: “The offences at the 99p Croydon stores took place under the previous ownership before we acquired 99p Stores. Poundland takes matters relating to the health and safety of its colleagues and customers very seriously.” However, council inspectors claimed that there was still evidence of mouse droppings in one of the shops as recently as November 25.
Reacting to the news, Croydon councillor Mark Watson said: “The fine reflects the severity of the case, as was made clear in the judge’s comments, and I hope it’s a lesson learned.”
Poundland is now expected to pay an additional £8,200 to Croydon council to cover court costs for the case.
It is thought that 99p Stores have been charged on at least 18 previous infringements for health and safety breaches across its UK operations. Since the takeover, Poundland has replaced the complete board of directors for 99p Stores.
ELL reported on the poor hygiene conditions in the North End store earlier this year.
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