A local grocery store and butchers has been fined almost £17,000 after continuing to serve customers – despite a mice infestation on the premises.
Blue Nile (Liverpool) Ltd on Holt Road in Kensington pleaded guilty to six breaches of food safety and hygiene regulations at Liverpool Magistrates Court on 17 August.
During an unannounced inspection on 14 June 2022, the City Council’s Environmental Health officers found the premises infested with mice, and despite this, the shop remained open.
Three dead mice were discovered under shelving units on the shop floor, three live mice were observed in a large bag of rice, which was also found to contain a nest with three baby mice in it – showing that the rodents were actively breeding on the premises.
Mouse droppings were discovered throughout the food outlet, food packaging had been gnawed and there was clearly no cleaning regime in place as food debris had built up, providing the perfect food source for the pests.
A number of gaps and holes in the building provided rodents with easy entry points, and there was no contract in place with pest control specialists.
The team also found the ‘use by’ date on a number of chilled food items had expired, yet they were still for sale.
Conditions were so severe, Blue Nile was immediately shut down due to the “imminent risk to health”, as mice are known carriers of zoonoses (diseases transmissible from animals to humans) including; salmonella, campylobacter, listeria and hantavirus which can cause serious illness, especially to vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, immunocompromised and those who are pregnant.
During the closure period pest control reports confirmed there was still an on-going pest problem within the premises.
After the shop carried out remedial works, the City Council team revisited the venue on 21 June 2022 and found further evidence of a pest control issue with a live mouse stuck on a glue board – Blue Nile remained closed. Following further works undertaken by the management, it was given permission to reopen on 27 June 2022.
Based on the inspection findings of 14 June 2022, the grocery and butchers was awarded the lowest food hygiene rating of zero – which signifies urgent improvement is necessary.
After pleading guilty, Blue Nile (Liverpool) Ltd was fined £12,000, £4,719.05 costs and a £181 victim surcharge – a total of £16,900. The case was prosecuted by Liverpool City Council’s Law and Governance Team.
Liverpool City Council’s Environmental Health service operates the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Members of the public can check the food hygiene rating of most food business in Liverpool by visiting www.food.gov.uk/ratings
When summing up, District Judge Hatton said:
“These were serious matters which put customers at a significant risk. I have seen the photographs and they were unpleasant viewing. The business fell far short of appropriate standards that must be met, there were no measures in place to deal with pests and you had let things go to a totally unacceptable place.”
Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, Councillor Laura Robertson Collins, said:
“This is a stomach-churning case and worthy of the hefty fine.
“It’s appalling that these business owners think they can get away with putting the health and safety of customers at risk without any repercussions.
“I hope this successful prosecution sends out a strong message that substandard hygiene will not be tolerated, and action will be taken if anyone is found in breach of the rules.
“I’d like to thank our dedicated Environmental Health Team for their hard work in keeping food outlets across the city safe for us all.”