British Bakeries has defen-ded its record on pest control, after two dead mice were found in a brown sliced loaf it supplied to Somerfield.

The new-born mice, droppings and hair, were found in the loaf, sold under Somerfield’s own label in its Marlborough store in September 2004. The mice had been laid in the bread after it had been baked and sliced.

In a court case at Devizes Magistrates Court in Wiltshire, which ended on December 1, British Bakeries was fined £10,000 for selling food unfit for human consumption – reduced to £7,000 as it pleaded guilty – and ordered to pay costs of £2,015.

British Bakeries’ technical director Paul Molyneux said the affected loaf had been baked at the company’s bakery in Avonmouth, Bristol, which had been suffering from an “isolated incident of mouse infestation”.

He commented: “We are very upset this has happened as we believe we have got a good record on pest control. We bake over 700 million loaves a year, and have independently audited pest control systems in place at all our bakeries. We apologise to the customer affected.”

There had been no other pro-secutions of British Bakeries on pest control grounds in the last 10 years, he said. And since the issue came to light in 2004, British Bakeries has worked on “continuous improvement” of pest control standards with Somer-field. It has taken every practi-cable step to ensure infestation does not reoccur, with pest control procedures in place and independently audited at all its bakeries, he added. The company remains a key supplier to Somerfield and Kwik Save.

Somerfield said the “nightmare” incident was “regrettable”, and it had taken additional steps to ensure that it is not repeated. “British Bakeries is a reputable and major supplier and carries out frequent stringent checks on its production facilities,” it said. “We also do our own audits on its bakeries to ensure every step is taken to guarantee the quality and safety of the products.”

However, the supermarket admitted the incident and the negative publicity generated in the press by the court case had put Somerfield and British Bakeries’ relationship under strain. It said: “Somerfield constantly reviews its supply base and its own-label suppliers. This incident will be a consideration when we are assessing our plant bread supplier going forward.”

The dead mice were found by Sarah Smith, 41, of Ogbourne St George, Wilts.