Rat-infested 99p store fined £240,000

99p Stores Limited pleaded guilty to six food safety offences at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, 3 December 2015 but was sent to Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing on Thursday, 21 January because magistrates did not consider their sentencing powers were sufficient.  The store was fined £40,000 for each of the six offences and ordered to pay the council’s legal costs of £6824.05.

At the same court hearing, the company was also fined £160,000 for hygiene offices at its branch in Kingston, Surrey.

Ealing Council’s food hygiene inspectors visited the Uxbridge Road store on 7 January 2015, following a complaint from a member of the public who had allegedly seen a live rat in the store.

Rat droppings were found beside food packets in a storage area where they found the gnawed packet of peanuts.

The store was issued with a hygiene improvement notice on 15 January 2015 but when inspectors returned on 12 February to check that acceptable improvements had been made, they found more droppings on shelves where food was stored and a packet of pasta which had been chewed open by rats. The store had also ignored recommendations by the pest control company it used on rodent proofing.

Officers carrying out a pre-court inspection at the store on 1 December found more rat droppings and damaged stock and issued an emergency notice to immediately close the store.

The store, now under new ownership, re-opened as Poundland in January 2016. Inspectors have issued it with the top score of five out of five in the food hygiene rating scheme.

Councillor Ranjit Dheer, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for community services and safety said: “I am very pleased that the court has recognised the seriousness of these offences and imposed a heavy fine. The company repeatedly ignored orders to clean up its act and allowed food to be stored in revolting conditions, which could well be a health hazard.”

Two Ealing eateries have also been prosecuted this month. Ms Juliat Cheruvathur, the former manager of The Clay Oven at 13 The Mall, Ealing, was banned from ever running a food business in the future after District Judge Day described her as “utterly negligent.”

Ms Cheruvathur was also fined £2,700, ordered to pay the council’s costs of £2,310.28 and a victim surcharge of £60 for offences relating to cleaning and pest control after the restaurant was closed by officers on three separate occasions. During one inspection a rat was spotted running across the kitchen.

Mr Kiyan Sohrabi, the owner of Molana at 78 Uxbridge Road, West Ealing was fined £5,315 and ordered to pay costs of £1568.06 and a victim surcharge of £91 for offences relating to cleaning, pest control and cross-contamination. Ealing Magistrate’s Court also heard that the business contravened an emergency prohibition notice served by the council.

Following various improvements and re-inspection Molana has achieved a food hygiene rating of 4 out of 5.

Residents are urged to check the food hygiene rating of local businesses at www.food.gov.uk.

Anyone concerned that a business is breaching food hygiene regulations should email foodsafety@ealing.gov.uk or call 020 8825 6666.