A convenience store was so badly infected by rats most of the stock on the shelves was full of bite marks.
Jimshaid Arshad, owner of Scholes-based Wigan mini-market, pleaded guilty to three counts of hygiene breaches at Wigan magistrates’ court and must pay over £2,000 with additional costs.
The charges related to an inspection on February 10 last year when inspector Vicky Wood found evidence of an “extensive infestation of rats” inside the back storeroom of the shop.
Alison Henderson, prosecuting for Wigan Council, told how there was “damaged stock on most of the shelves” and that boxes appeared to have bite marks from rodents.
She added: “A run was discovered coming from the shop area into the storeroom. It appeared to the officers that rats were getting into the storeroom.”
Pest control unit Pro Kill was called in who put down foam which, if not there the following day, would indicate the presence of rats. When they returned on February 11 they reported the foam had gone, indicating the rats had gained access.
The court also heard how the storeroom was in a poor state with damaged plaster and no evidence of a cleaning system in place.
Officers re-visited the Darlington Street East premises on March 10 and still found problems with the cleaning that had not been improved, noting that the floor was still sticky.
However, according to Ms Henderson, a further visit found “more cleaning had been undertaken and it was looking and smelling a lot better.”
Ms Henderson told the court how Mr Arshad had not been at the business two to three weeks prior to the inspection due to a death in the family.
She added: “He said he did not know about the rats but immediately contradicted himself by saying he had contacted pest control after finding damaged packaging.”
She also said that there was no evidence of rats on the shop floor and that the premises is now pest-free.
Mr Arshad told magistrates: “I accept full responsibility. As you have heard there was a death in the family but that isn’t an excuse.
“I hold my hands up. This is the first time it’s ever happened and we have been open for 15 years.”
He was fined £495 each for failing to control pests and for the storerom being found dirty with food debris, dust and rat-damaged stock.
There was no additional fine for the third charge relating to structural issues.
However, Mr Arshad was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £49 and prosecution costs of £1,331, taking the overall costs to £2,370.
The presiding magistrate told him: “This is a very serious issue that puts at risk public health.”
After the sentencing, Wigan Council’s cabinet member for environment Kevin Anderson said: “We prefer to work with businesses to help them improve and it is extremely disappointing when a business persistently fails to meet food safety standards required or has serious issues that puts the public at risk. In such cases we do pursue formal action.”