The owner of a Kensington grocery store has been fined £1,000 and costs after pleading guilty to six breaches of food safety and hygiene rules.
Itoro John, 36, who runs the African Food Store on Prescot Road, has been sentenced to pay £1,000 and costs in excess of £5,000 to Liverpool City Council after food hygiene inspectors found his shop was in disgusting conditions last February condition was. The store was immediately closed because it posed an “imminent health hazard.”
Mouse droppings were found on surfaces in the store where open groceries were stored and under shelves where baby products were stored. A total of 11 dead mice were also found under food shelves, as well as gnawed food packets and an accumulation of food scraps that the rodents fed on because effective cleaning did not take place.
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Council environmental health officers first visited the site last February and found the store was infested with mice and no pest control measures were in place, prompting its immediate temporary closure. The inspectors also found several gaps and holes in the premises that allowed the rodents to enter the workshop.
The store reopened a month later after environmental health officers revisited and agreed it could reopen its doors. However, it was given the lowest possible food hygiene rating of zero, meaning urgent improvement is needed.
The following October, another food hygiene inspection uncovered more than 50 food products, including meat and fish products, that were unlabeled and virtually untraceable, with no best-by dates or available information to confirm exactly what was inside the package. These were voluntarily handed in and disposed of during the inspection.
District Judge Wendy Lloyd said: “Standards in the business were very poor. I have seen the photos and some are very shocking showing dead mice and droppings. The food was not suitable for consumption.
“There were no pest control systems in place and conditions were extremely poor.”
Councilor Abdul Qadir, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighborhoods, said: “This is a shocking case of food safety and hygiene breaches and we can only be grateful the public has not been made very ill as a result. We will not tolerate food businesses operating in this way and the seriousness of this accusation is reflected in the sizeable fine imposed on the owner.
“As always, our environmental health team has to be commended. Officers are doing an incredible job in Liverpool to ensure retailers are in compliance with the law and keeping us all safe.”
Katy Elliott, a food safety consultant who is currently working with Itoro and the African Food Store to improve their hygiene rating, said: “The Standards website seems quite difficult to follow when English is not their first language. We have since spoken to environmental health inspectors after the court case and they said they would come out for another inspection.
“I work closely with environmental inspectors and I hope they will see that it is now compliant in every respect.”