A health food store has been fined more than a half-a-million pounds after inspectors discovered it infested with mice and covered in droppings and urine.
Holland & Barrett was hit with the huge fine following an inspection of its Knightsbridge store in Brompton Road.
Images taken by Westminster City Council hygiene inspectors show gnawed-through items on sale and faeces on shelves.
There was “an immediate danger” faced by the public and the store was closed for two weeks for until it was given a clean bill of health.
Environmental health officers visited the branch in February last year following a customer complaint.
The firm admitted to three offences under Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations in November, and was handed the fine on January 25 at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court .
Taking into account the company’s £2 million a week profits and assets of £17m in cash, District Judge Gary Lucie said the fine should be twice that of a large company, but reduced it to £505,102, with costs of £5,000, because of the guilty pleas.
He said: “I hope that this fine will bring home to the management and shareholders of Holland & Barrett of the need to ensure that none of their premises ever fall into the appalling state of their branch in Kensington.”
This is the latest fine to be handed down to Holland & Barrett.
In 2005 it was convicted for offences against the Food Hygiene Regulations, while in 2012 it was found guilty of seven offences under the same regulations for a rat and mice infestation.
Westminster Council cabinet member for public protection and licensing at the council, Cllr Antonia Cox, said: “This is a big fine.
"Food retailers in Westminster must play by the rules on hygiene.
“We would encourage anyone with concerns about the cleanliness of shops, restaurants or other establishments selling food in our borough to contact Westminster City Council’s Food Safety Team as soon as possible.”
A Holland & Barrett spokesman said: “This was an isolated infestation in February 2016.
“We are very sorry we were unable to manage it more successfully. We have over 1,000 stores and mice are an unfortunate but very occasional challenge facing all high street retailers.
“We have now further strengthened our systems by appointing a replacement specialist supplier and a new specialist technical services officer to ensure that all of our stores continue to maintain the highest standards of hygiene and safety that our customers expect.”
The company admitted failures in protecting food from contamination, keeping its premises clean and controlling pests.
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