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Shepherd Neame slapped with £160,000 fine after failing to deal with rat infestation

PUBLISHED: 17:04 25 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:04 25 July 2017

Shepherd Neame. Pic: Ady Kerry

Shepherd Neame. Pic: Ady Kerry

Ady Kerry /AK Pictures

The brewer has apologised and undertaken “a thorough review of systems and processes”

Britain’s oldest brewer has been slapped with a fine after failing to deal with a rat infestation at a hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

Shepherd Neame Ltd appeared in court in Medway on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to four charges of food hygiene offences at the Royal Wells Hotel after action was taken by the borough council.

In June 2016 a member of the council’s Environmental Health Food Team visited the hotel to follow up on a complaint received about rodents in the kitchen.

During this and subsequent visits over the following days, officers identified a widespread rat infestation and other failings that posed a risk to the safety of the food being served.

The problems were so serious that the council’s opinion was that due to the imminent risk to health at the Royal Wells Hotel, the premises should be closed with immediate effect.

In response, Shepherd Neame voluntarily closed the premises.

The council’s investigation revealed that the hotel failed to escalate its response to pest proofing advice given by its contracted pest control agency and failed to comply with its food safety management system.

In court, they were fined £160,000 and had costs of £9,988 awarded against them.

A spokesperson for Shepherd Neame said: “We wholly accept today’s ruling. This incident should not have happened and we have done everything within our power to ensure it will not happen again.

“We voluntarily and immediately closed the kitchen and since the incident in June 2016 have carried out all necessary remedial work to the site.

“We have undertaken a thorough review of our systems and processes and the hotel also has a new management team.

“We have a hitherto unblemished hygiene record upon which we pride ourselves and which makes this incident all the more painful as a consequence.

“However, the Royal Wells has subsequently been rated satisfactory and we remain committed to working with the council to deliver the highest standards of customer experience.”

Dr Ronen Basu, Tunbridge Wells’ cabinet member with responsibility for sustainability said: “This disregard for even the most basic standards of hygiene and food safety put people’s health at risk.

“Whilst I acknowledge their apology, I think it entirely reasonable that the owners should be held to account and fined.

“Residents can be reassured that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is working in their best interests and the council will take action if public health is put at risk.”

Justene Lawal, a senior environmental health officer in the council’s food team, who carried out the investigation, added: “Things have moved on at the Royal Wells, there are new managers in place who have a positive approach to working with us which we are very pleased about.

“The council’s Environmental Health Food Team is always happy to work with businesses to ensure they meet the standards expected of them and help them avoid the risk of prosecution.”

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