Record fine after dead mouse found in a nursery kitchen

The owners of a nursery in Shellingford near Faringdon have been ordered to pay more than £60,000 after Vale of White Horse District Council Environmental Health officers discovered a dead mouse in the nursery kitchen.

The nursery owners pleaded guilty at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on 10 April 2018 to five offences under Food Safety Legislation. The District Judge imposed a fine of £60,000 and ordered them to pay costs of £1,851.05 and a victim surcharge of £170.  This is the largest fine to date for a prosecution by the Vale of White Horse District Council for this type of case.

The offences took place on 16 May 2017 when the district council’s Environmental Health officers carried out a routine, unannounced inspection at Positive Steps Children’s Day Nursery, Church Street, Shellingford, Faringdon, which is under the Busy Bees Group.

The inspectors described the cleaning in the kitchen as ’poor’. They found rodent faeces throughout the kitchen, including on top of work surfaces by chopping boards, by food and by a baby bottle steriliser.  They also found a dead mouse in the kitchen. They noted a lack of routine cleaning and disinfection to minimise the risk of food contamination.

The kitchen was immediately closed by food hygiene inspectors at Vale of White Horse District Council as they felt the condition of the kitchen was posing an imminent risk to the health of the children and staff at the nursery.

The business co-operated fully with the council to address the issues raised during the inspection.  During a follow-up inspection on Friday 19 May 2017, the council was satisfied that it no longer posed an imminent risk to health and lifted the prohibition.

During sentencing District Judge Rana stated that she found that there had been a lack of overseeing and training, that the nursery knew there had been a pest control problem for a considerable time. She also added that it was fortunate there had been no injury to the vulnerable group in the nursery’s care. She took into account the steps promptly taken by the nursery, its previous good record and early guilty plea.

Cllr Elaine Ware, cabinet member for housing and environment at the Vale of the White Horse said: “The level of the fine shows how seriously the authorities take severe breaches such as this. It was felt that the condition of the kitchen was risking the health of the children and staff at the nursery.  Children under five years of age are particularly at risk of infection as their immune systems are not yet fully developed.

“While we are pleased the nursery responded positively, I hope that this case will serve as a reminder to all other organisations, which cater for the public, to ensure their food hygiene standards are not allowed to fall.”