A NEW Forest pub has been ordered to pay nearly £14,000 after fresh rodent droppings were found in its kitchen and potatoes had been gnawed by rats.

The droppings were discovered by council environmental health officers when they paid a surprise visit to the Red Shoot in Linwood in May this year.

On closer inspection of the venue, in Toms Lane, it was found that rats had gnawed potatoes that had been stored in a cardboard box on the floor of the kitchen.

And evidence of “rodent activity” was also uncovered in an outside bottle storage shed, where it was found that drinks were not properly protected against potential pest contamination.

Operators Wadworth and Company Ltd, based in Devizes, Wiltshire, pleaded guilty to five food hygiene offences at Southampton Magistrates Court.

Holes Inspectors found holes in the exterior and interior structure of the pub that allowed rodents in, and a gap under the boiler room door.

The pub also failed to implement Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) procedures for pest control, and failed to protect the bottle storage shed from rodents and contamination.

In sentencing the firm, magistrates said it had failed to follow its own food safety procedures and had it done so, the rat infestation could have been avoided.

The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £3,746 costs.

The business closed voluntarily following the inspection and was allowed to re-open once works were undertaken to remove any risk to the public.

New Forest councillor Edward Heron said: “It is totally unacceptable to allow rats into a food business.

“Environmental health officers took appropriate action to protect public health.”