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Food supplier fined £16,000 over rat and mice infestation

By Richard Guttridge | Oldbury | News | Published:

An Oldbury food supplier has been made to pay more than £16,000 after a rat and mouse infestation was discovered at its warehouse.

Pearl Food Distribution was temporarily closed down after droppings were found (stock image of a rat)

Pearl Food Distribution was temporarily closed down after droppings were found on packaged food and drinks. Packages had also been gnawed into by the rodents and food safety chiefs acted as they felt there was an 'imminent risk to health'.

Investigators found widespread droppings on top of pallets, containing chicken, flour, vegetable oil and canned soft drinks in April 2016 at the wholesaler, which supplies takeaways, Wolverhampton Magistrates Court heard.

Company director Aqeel Shah, who appeared in court on behalf of Pearl Food Distribution, claimed as they did not own the building, on the Imex Industrial Estate on Union Road, it was down to the landlords to fill in holes that were allowing rats and mice to get in.

But Mr David Elliott, prosecuting on behalf of Sandwell Council, said: "As a food operating business it was the company's overriding responsibility if an issue could have compromised food safety that it should have been dealt with.

"I haven't seen any evidence of trying to follow that up or taking remedial action himself.

"Inspectors found a number of gnawed bags - gnawed not just by forklift trucks but also by rodents."

The company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,400 after pleading guilty to seven charges relating to food safety and hygiene.

Mr Sukhdip Randhawa, defending the company, which has since moved to a new premises in Smethwick, told the court: "He was left with the building in the disrepair as it is.

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"He said it should have been the landlord who got it up to scratch. He couldn't leave the premises as he was stuck on a long-term lease."

He added: "As farm as harm goes, it was not open to the general public. The food was not on display.

"It was packaged, large-scale, palletted and shrink-wrapped. Items tended to be cans, tins and boxes and the majority of items were sealed themselves."

District Judge Michael Wheeler said: "If you are going to be involved in the storage and distribution of food you have to do it from a premises that is suitable for that purpose.

"The food was for eventual human consumption. It must have been obvious and a recurring problem and you and your employees must have been aware of it."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
@RichG_star

Reporter for the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton

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