holland and barrett

Holland & Barrett has been hit with a £500,000 fine for failing to deal with a mice infestation at one of its central London branches.

The substantial fine comes after Westminster City Council received a complaint from a member of the public regarding its premises on Brompton Road, Knightsbridge last February.

The council uncovered “evidence of mice activity” at the premises and ordered Holland & Barrett to close the branch for two weeks due to the potential danger to the public.

In the resulting court case, Holland & Barrett pleaded guilty to three offences including failure to protect food from contamination and put in place adequate pest control procedures.

The judge ruled the size of the company - Holland & Barrett’s sales passed the £420m mark last year - meant it should pay double the amount of a typical large company in the form of a £750,000 fine.

But the fine was reduced to £505,102 plus costs of £5,000 in light of Holland & Barrett’s guilty plea.

“I hope that this fine will bring home to the management and shareholders of Holland & Barrett of the need to ensure that none of their premises ever fall into the appalling state of their branch in Kensington,” the judge warned.

The fine marks the third time that Holland & Barrett has been in hot water over its premises standards. In 2005, it was convicted for offences against food hygiene regulations, while in 2012 it was found guilty of seven offences under the same regulations for a rat and mice infestation.

Holland & Barrett said it was “very sorry” for the incident and stressed that it had since improved procedures.

“We have over 1,000 stores and mice are an unfortunate but very occasional challenge for all high street retailers,” said a spokeswoman. “We have now further strengthened our systems with the appointment of a replacement specialist supplier and a new specialist technical services officer to ensure that all of our stores continue to maintain the highest standards of hygiene that our customers expect.”