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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 13:21 GMT
Fine over rats at food warehouse
Edward Lewis
Edward Lewis was fined 8,000 and ordered to pay 8,900 costs
An "extensive" rat infestation was found at a firm supplying food to care homes and schools across west Wales, Swansea Crown Court has heard.

Rodent faeces, bird droppings, maggots and dead rats were found on or close to food at the Skelfayre warehouse in Pembroke Dock.

A large amount of food was recalled and destroyed after the find in July 2006.

Skelfayre director Edward Lewis, 67, was fined 16,900 but the judge heard the company was now insolvent.

Mr Lewis and the company, which supplied over 300 establishments in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, admitted two counts under food hygiene laws at an earlier hearing.

She had never seen such an extensive infestation
Lee Reynolds, prosecutor

Prosecuting on behalf of Pembrokeshire Council, Lee Reynolds said environment health officer Sara Sharp made a routine visit to the premises on the Kingswood trading estate on 4 July 2006.

The court heard, she found:

  • Rat droppings on food products and bird faeces on cans of milk
  • A large amount of food spilled out of its packaging onto the floor
  • A dead rat under a pallet of cookie mix
  • Rat droppings on bags of crisps
  • Evidence rats had gnawed food including chocolate and ice cream

Mr Reynolds said in one instance "rat urine looked as if it had caused damp patches on the food".

He said: "She had never seen such an extensive infestation".

A team of 11 environmental health officers spent nine days investigating and clearing up the site.

Skelfayre warehouse
Rat droppings were found on food products at the store

The council went to court to get a prohibition order preventing further food leaving the warehouse and an extensive product recall was also imposed.

"Skips and skips of food, large industrial containers, were disposed of," said Mr Reynolds.

In mitigation David Harris said: "This is not a case where any injury to health was caused by the rat infestation".

He said Mr Lewis had been unaware of the conditions at the warehouse and day-to-day running was carried out by managers.

He told the judge Skelfayre had since ceased trading and was insolvent.

The judge was told it had now been taken over by Luther Lewis Drefach Limited, of which Lewis was also a director.

"There is a different regime there now in place," added Mr Harris.

Sentencing, Judge Michael Burr said the failure was "wholesale and lamentable".

He said it was really a "quite outrageous" way for a company to be run.

"The public are entitled to be assured that any food that is supplied to them is wholesome, clean and unaffected by the sorts of things we've heard about in this case," said the judge.

Lewis was fined 8,000 and ordered to pay 8,900 costs.

Skelfayre was fined 200 and also ordered to pay 8,900 costs but the judge said he was certain "not one penny of that money" would ever be recovered.

Food recall after rat infestation
09 Jul 06 |  South West Wales

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