A grocery store in Broadgreen will remain closed after Swindon Borough Council’s Environmental Health team discovered a significant rat infestation during a routine food hygiene inspection.
An emergency prohibition order was issued by magistrates, extending the closure of India Bazzar, at 103 Broad Street, until council officers are satisfied it is safe to reopen.
Swindon Magistrates Court heard how council officers visited the store on 2 November when it was open and serving customers.
They immediately noticed large quantities of rat droppings on the floor, and on shelving, and identified large quantities of food items, including ready-to-eat foods such as biscuits, pastries, salt and peanuts which had been gnawed by the rodents.
A bag of flour was found on display, which was stained with rat urine.
There was also evidence of gnawed bags of food being taped over and placed back on the shelves for sale. As there were clear signs of an infestation, officers served a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice formally closing the business.
The court heard how one of the Council’s Environmental Health team described it as the worst rat infestation she had seen in her 24-year career.
Kumaravelu Muthu, the sole director of India Bazzar (PVT) Ltd, told council officers he had tried to control the infestation with rat grain bait and block bait, and attempted to fill holes with netting material, but that he did not have a pest control contract.
Prosecuting solicitor Daryl Bigwood, representing the council, described how, during a follow-up visit, council officers had found the business had undertaken pest proofing works and a pest controller had been engaged, with a five-day treatment plan still finding rats on the last day.
An annual contract has now been arranged and the business is waiting for pest control to attend and undertake checks.
After hearing the evidence, a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order was issued by magistrates allowing the council to keep the shop shut until it is satisfied that the safety of customers can be met. The business will have to apply in writing to reopen.
Mr Muthu was ordered to pay the Council’s costs of £2,000.
Cllr Jim Grant, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Joint Working and Communities, said: “Our food hygiene team carries out hundreds of inspections each year and in the vast majority of cases they find businesses are meeting the required standards.
“They do, though, come across cases like this from time to time where they need to take immediate action to protect the health and safety of customers.
“This was one of the worst rat infestations our long-standing officer had seen and I am pleased magistrates extended the closure so the owner of the business can get this situation under control and ensure it never happens again.
“With the weather getting colder, now is the time where rats look to find food and warmer conditions and this is where infestations can take hold.
"It is incredibly important that all businesses have the appropriate pest control checks in place so we do not see situations like this in future.”
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