Supermarket chews on fine for mice-gnawed food sale

Sainsbury's was forced to pay a �6,000 fine. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Sainsbury's was forced to pay a �6,000 fine. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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SUPERMARKET giant Sainsbury’s has been fined £6000 for allowing food chewed on by mice to be placed on sale at a Capital branch.

Environmental officers found that rodents had gnawed on the packaging of crisps, rice and nuts at the Craigleith Road store during a visit in February last year.

They made the inspection after receiving an anonymous tip-off claiming hygiene at the branch was extremely unsatisfactory.

Sainsbury’s yesterday admitted two charges of contravening food safety regulations, while two further allegations were dropped by prosecutors, including that mice droppings and trails of mice urine were present on shelves.

The food firm blamed contractors for failing to ensure the revamped store was pest proof.

Depute procurator fiscal Bruce Macrosson told Edinburgh Sheriff Court that environmental health inspectors found a number of products that had been tampered with by the mice.

He said: “On February 10, 2011, following an anonymous complaint of mice activity at the store premises, environmental health officers of Edinburgh City Council attended the premises. The duty manager informed the officers that the company was aware there was mice activity in the store and that they were addressing the issue.

“They found that two bags of Sainsbury’s own brand salted cashew nuts had been gnawed on by mice.

“They also found two packets of rice that had been gnawed on by mice. And they also discovered a multi-pack of Quavers crisps that had been tampered with by the mice.”

The court also heard Sainsbury’s staff then destroyed all food stuffs that could have come into contact with the rodents.

Defence advocate Susan Duff told the court that the company accepted it had committed criminal offences. She said the store had suffered problems since it reopened following a £9 million refurbishment in October 2010.

Mrs Duff said contractors had failed to take adequate steps to make the store pest proof, and had failed to tell Sainsbury’s what they had done. The court heard the firm had spent only £3000 on anti-rodent measures and that inspectors visited the store around the same time Sainsbury’s discovered what was going on.

She added that the company had taken all available measures to make the shop safe for customers to visit.

Mrs Duff said: “The company deeply regrets that the offences were committed. Once it became apparent, the company took immediate action to remedy the situation.

“The £3000 spent on proofing was grossly inadequate. The company acted extremely responsibly once it became aware of the problem. Sainsbury’s decided to destroy the food stuffs that may have been in contact with the mice.

Hitting Sainsbury’s with the £6000 fine, Sheriff Paul Arthurson QC said: “In light of what has been said by the prosecution and the mitigation offered on behalf of Sainsbury’s, I will impose a financial penalty.”