Margarine gnawed by rats at Bakery Quality First factory in Liverpool  2100x1400

Source: Knowsley Council

Margarine found gnawed by rats at Bakery Quality First factory in Liverpool

Former directors of a bakery business in Liverpool have received fines and lifetime bans from managing food production after their site was found to be filthy and infested with rats.

Knowsley Council inspectors had conducted a routine food safety inspection on 12 January 2023 of the Bakery Quality First Ltd factory, which produced sweet pastries for Polish shops across the north of England.

The team found that open food was stored in areas where there was rat activity and found that foodstuffs had been gnawed, while the production room was contaminated with debris that could also provide a source of food for the rats.

Such was the state of disrepair at the site that an open drain was found capped off with an empty food can, and holes and gaps in the building structure were allowing rats to enter the premises. A dead juvenile rat was found in a bucket near to where food and packaging was stored.

Bakery Quality First was incorporated in June 2018 with ownership split equally among four shareholders including Marcin Hajduk and Piotr Kowalczyk. The other two founders were removed from their director roles by mid-2022 and replaced by Pawel Steglinski.

Following the food safety inspection last year, the three owners were told that the premises posed an imminent risk to health. They voluntarily closed the factory with immediate effect, with the Food Standards Agency ordering a withdrawal of all products from the market.

The Kirkby-based business subsequently went into liquidation, appointing Hudson Weir in London as a voluntary liquidator in November 2023, after which Knowsley Council stopped proceedings against the company itself.

The council then prosecuted the former directors for their neglect in failing to ensure that the company followed food hygiene regulations. They each plead guilty to four charges of breaching regulations during an appearance at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 8 February 2024.

Steglinski and Hajduk were fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,300 costs and a £400 victim surcharge. While Kowalczyk was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,175 and a £200 victim surcharge. An unusual decision was also made by the council to request that the former directors be banned from managing a food business in the future.

In sentencing the defendants, District Judge Healey remarked that it “must have been obvious that things were starting to go badly wrong” and that although they put in some measures to address the problems, they took a decision to continue without alerting the authorities or seeking further guidance from pest control companies.

Stating that they should have stopped production, the Judge said he found the trio to be highly culpable for the offences and imposed an indefinite Prohibition Order on them regarding food manufacturing.