UK – American multinational fast food chain McDonald’s has been fined nearly half a million pounds after environmental health officers discovered an out-of-control rodent infestation at the restaurant.

This was in response to a customer’s allegation that there were mouse droppings in their cheeseburger. After devouring their hamburger and noticing what appeared to be mouse droppings on the inside of the food wrapper, the dissatisfied drive-thru customer complained, which led to an investigation.

The facility’s food preparation spaces, primary cooking areas, and hot food holding areas were among the places where the environmental health inspectors discovered mouse droppings and decomposing mouse carcasses.

They assessed it to be an “imminent risk” to the general public’s health and instructed the Leytonstone, East London, branch to immediately close shop.

Waltham Forest Council summoned the fast-food giant to court this week after it pleaded guilty to three charges of hygiene violations and was ordered to pay £500,000 (U.S$ 631,655) in penalties and costs.

In a statement, McDonald’s said: “We apologize unreservedly for this incident and for any upset caused.”

Councillor Khevyn Limbajee, Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said customers should be made to feel confident that their food has been cooked and prepared in a clean and safe environment.

“We are grateful for the quick thinking of the customer in this case for reporting the matter to the council for investigation.

“There was a significant risk posed to the health of residents and visitors to Waltham Forest and as such the Council had no option but to take formal action in this case,” Cllr Limbajee said.

According to him, McDonald’s is a large and well-experienced food business operator in the fast-food sector that serves thousands of meals per week to its customers, therefore the risk presented at the Leytonstone store was significant.

“It was appreciated that McDonald’s pleaded guilty and admitted wrongdoing at the first opportunity, however as a Council we take food hygiene seriously and won’t hesitate to follow up complaints and take action where appropriate, irrespective of who operates the food business.

“Residents and visitors should feel confident and assured that when they check a premises’ food hygiene rating in Waltham Forest, they know their food has been cooked in a clean and safe environment and that we take a zero-tolerance approach to serious hygiene contraventions,” Cllr Limbajee added.

In October 2021, Waltham Forest Council environmental health officers went to the eatery in response to a complaint from a less-than-pleased customer.

The customer, who placed their order at the drive-thru window of the restaurant, was reportedly “halfway through” eating their cheeseburger when they looked down and saw what they initially assumed was a mouse dropping on the inside of the food wrapper.

The horrified customer complained to Waltham Forest Council, which dispatched environmental health officers to check the Leytonstone eatery — which continues to hold a 1.5-star Trip Advisor rating.

When the police confirmed the claims, they quickly gave the eatery the go-ahead to close.

McDonald’s was fined £475,000 (U.S$ 600,072) plus £22,000 (U.S$ 27,792) in expenses after entering a guilty plea to three sanitary violations.

Since then, the branch has received a hygiene grade of 4 (good).

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