Supermarket chain Tesco has issued an official apology after it pleaded guilty to hygiene failures at its Covent Garden Metro store, which included the discovery of a bloated mouse inside a food crate.
Environmental health officers were called to the store after receiving complaints from customers last year, who claimed to have spotted mice running around the aisles.
During the course of several inspections, officers found food debris on shelves, mouse droppings, and a strong smell which was later discovered to be that of decomposing rodents.
Droppings were found in various parts of the store, including on shelves and counters, while live rodents were discovered in the shop's storage area.
On closer inspection, it became clear that mice had been chewing on raw chicken and other out of date food found in the shop's storage area.
In their report to the court, council officers also claimed that rodents had managed to gain entry to the store's bakery.
Paul Sharkey, prosecuting, told Westminster Magistrates Court: "Whilst removing crates of chicken, three live mice jumped onto the warehouse floor. A live mice was seen running along the floor of the warehouse."
Tesco pleaded guilty to six breaches of food safety violations, each carrying a possible maximum fine of £5,000.
Issuing his decision yesterday (July 18th), district judge John Sanders said that he accepted the supermarket's argument that the food in question was never meant for sale.
He added: "I have been shown a bundle of photographs that are in some parts distasteful, in other parts revolting."
A spokesperson for Tesco said: "We insist on the highest standards of hygiene in our stores and we are very sorry that we fell short of those standards in Covent Garden last year.
“We took urgent action to deal with this isolated incident and voluntarily kept the store closed whilst we carried out a complete refit."
The company added that it would be working hard to ensure that standards were maintained in order to ensure that a similar incident never happens again.
The case will now be referred to Southwark Crown Court.