The Range fined £600,000 following rat infestation at Somerset store

A Taunton superstore has been fined £960,000, reduced to £640,000 for food hygiene offences following a successful prosecution by Somerset Council.

Guilty pleas were entered by CDS (Superstores International) Ltd, operating as The Range Home and Leisure at Hankridge, Taunton, for seven food hygiene offences in September 2023.

The sentencing hearing was adjourned to 4 December 2023 where the fine was issued, and the business was ordered to pay £190 surcharge and £26,593 – the full cost to Somerset Council for taking this case to court.

Officers from Somerset Council first received a complaint in March 2022 regarding a severe rat infestation. This led to a long investigation over an 8-month period involving over 20 visits, which resulted in an Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Notice being served in August 2022 to prohibit the business selling food for human consumption.

The Notice was made into an Emergency Hygiene Prohibition Order by the Magistrates Court in September 2022. Then during monitoring visits made to the premises, it was found that food was being sold in contravention to the Order which could have caused an imminent risk to health.

During the investigation both pet and human food was found that had been gnawed, and packaging was seen to be damaged and contaminated by rats. Rat droppings were also found on shelves next to food in the shop area and warehouse.

The business failed to control the rat activity and act upon the advice given by the council and their contracted pest control company. The business also failed to protect food from contamination and keep the premises clean and maintained in a clean condition.

Federica Smith-Roberts, lead member for communities, housing and culture said: “The fine imposed by the court recognises the significance of the rat infestation in the business and the potential this had to cause harm to human health.

“Environmental Health Officers across Somerset work hard to ensure food businesses are compliant with food safety legislation and will take enforcement action where necessary in line with the Somerset Council Enforcement Policy.”