Butcher’s shop closed following discovery of rat infestation

A butcher’s shop in Swindon has been closed after a rat infestation was discovered.

Swindon Borough Council’s Environmental Health team found a large rat infestation during the course of a food hygiene inspection at Kenya Halal Butchers.

Magistrates imposed a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order on the shop in Bridge Street, after being presented with evidence of the inspection at a hearing.

Swindon Magistrates Court heard how council officers found the business open and serving customers when they visited the premises but, upon entering, immediately noticed the poor standard of cleaning throughout the store.

On further investigation, officers saw ready-to-eat foods, like peanuts and walnuts, on the shop floor with gnawed shell casings surrounding them.

Officers saw evidence that rats had been climbing across the shop food counters as they found gnawed nut shells in and amongst food packaging in different areas of the shop floor counters.

Gnawed bags of food were found and officers found food packaging which had sellotape over the gnawed holes.

There were also large quantities of rat droppings in front of the meat counter under boxes of crisp packets as well as under the refrigerated meat counter and under disused display counters.

Magistrates heard that nesting material had been taken from all around the shop by the rodents. This included insulation material from pipework, blue customer shopping bags, blue paper tissues and large quantities of food items including black eye beans which the rats had used to make a nest in the meat counter. The officers commented that the smell of rat urine behind the meat counter was disgusting.

The court was told that the store was also extremely untidy with a large amount of boxes, unused equipment and even items like a cement mixer being stored in the rear of the business, making it impossible for the food business to clean effectively or check for the activity of pests.

Council officers also described the condition of the walk-in chillers as filthy, with rotting food debris on the floor surfaces underneath plastic pallets. A bag of raw meat was being stored directly on top of a crate of avocados. Open raw meat was observed being stored directly on the filthy floor surface of the walk-in freezer.

Rat activity is a serious risk to customers’ health due to the pests urinating and defecating on surfaces and food items. Rats can carry several diseases that can be harmful to humans. During the visit, council officers served a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition notice formally closing the business.

The store is owned by Kenya Butchers Swindon. The business decided not to attend court.

The emergency prohibition order granted by magistrates allows the Council to keep the shop shut until it is satisfied that the safety of customers can be met.

The owners of the business will have to contact the council if they believe the risks to human health are under control and an environmental health officer will attend immediately to work with the food business to ensure conditions are safe for it to reopen.

Magistrates awarded the Council full costs of £3,493.70.

Jim Grant, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Joint Working and Communities, said: “The conditions found in this business were shocking.

“Cases like this are rare but, when they do occur, our officers will take action straight away to protect the health and safety of the public.

“Food business owners have a duty to ensure they are adhering to food hygiene requirements and they must make sure they have adequate pest control checks in place so situations do not get out of control like they did in this instance.

“We inspect hundreds of food businesses each year and most are doing a great job. If you want to check the rating of a food business in Swindon you can visit the Food Standards Agency website for the latest food hygiene score awarded by our team.”