Merton Council successfully prosecutes Iceland Foods Limited for failing to maintain adequate standards of hygiene at its stores in Morden and Mitcham.
On Wednesday 21 November 2018, at Wimbledon Magistrate’s Court, Iceland Foods were fined £430,270 for breaching 6 Food Hygiene Regulations.
This included four offences for placing food on the market that was not safe in that it had been attacked by mice and two offences for failing to keep the food premises clean.
On 10 March 2017, following a customer complaint an unannounced food safety visit was carried out at Iceland’s Mitcham store by Merton Council’s Environmental Health Officers. The complaint alleged that bread, bought from the store, had been gnawed by mice.
The loaf was examined, and teeth marks consistent with a small rodent were found on the crust.
A subsequent investigation by the Council throughout the store found mouse droppings and gnawed products.
A voluntary agreement was made to destroy all affected food, carry out a deep clean, increase the pest control and proofing measures.
Unfortunately, when a reinspection was made on 27 March 2017 to check on the promised improvements, mouse droppings were again found throughout the store, and there was evidence that food on display for sale had been attacked by mice.
As it was evident that there was a risk to public health, a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice (HEPN) was served that closed the premises on the spot, prohibiting the store from re-opening until 5 April 2017.
On the 12 July 2017 officers made an unannounced visit to Iceland’s Morden store after a complaint from a customer who had noticed two packets of crisps had been gnawed by a rodent.
The customer had then given the packet to staff at the shop before reporting it to Environmental Health Officers at Merton Council.
Officers visited immediately and found several packets of gnawed biscuits on display in the biscuit aisle and mice droppings on the shelves.
Iceland’s pest control records indicated that mice droppings had been found behind pallets and by the biscuit aisle on the shop floor, and dead mice were regularly found in traps
The inspection revealed debris and dirt behind the chest freezers on the shop floor, proving that the area was not regularly cleaned. A broken sauce bottle was found behind a chest freezer and had leaked its contents onto the floor. This was despite it being known that there was mice activity in the shop.
Due to the public health risk, a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice (HEPN) was served which formally closed the shop, which was not allowed to reopen until 17 July.
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Community and Culture, Councillor Nick Draper, said: “This case demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the residents of Merton and I am grateful to the Council’s Environmental Health Team who are regularly out in the borough, making inspections and taking action when it’s needed to ensure that businesses comply with hygiene standards.”
At Wimbledon Magistrate’s Court, on the 13 August 2018, Iceland Foods pleaded guilty to three offences of placing unsafe food on the market and one offence of failing to keep the premises clean at their Mitcham Store. One offence of placing hazardous food on the market and one offence of failing to keep the premises clean at their Morden store.
At Wimbledon Magistrate’s Court on the 21 November 2018 Iceland Food was fined £70,000 for each offence, making a total fine of £420,000, the Court awarded Merton Council costs of £10,100 and ordered Iceland Foods to pay a victim surcharge of £170.