Food Lover's Market. Picture: File
** This story has been updated

Diepkloof - The City of Joburg has claimed that its environmental health department has been monitoring Food Lover's Market in Diepkloof since 2013 and said it had noted that the store had not complied with a number of food safety regulations.

Remedial actions were recommended after the last visit in November last year.

A second store in the Jabulani Mall was also inspected and closed after two rats were found crawling among apples.

“Our investigations and monitoring are mainly focused on rodent infestations,” said Mayco member for health and social development Mpho Phalatse, who added on Monday that the stores would remain closed until the city’s health department was satisfied that all standards were complied with, including deep cleaning and fumigation.

“Our environmental health inspectors in the region had already noted that the store did not comply with a number of food safety regulations,” said Phalatse.

Before the video footage showing a rodent inside a fridge where food was kept went viral, notices to comply with waste management, pest control and hygiene requirements were issued to the outlet.

Phalatse said she had instructed environmental health inspectors in the region of Soweto to diligently investigate the Food Lover's outlet in Soweto and submit a detailed report to her office.

Her department, she said, would not shy away from shutting down outlets if they placed the lives of residents at risk. She said food safety would not be compromised and all outlets, regardless of their size, should comply.

“Anyone operating a food outlet in the city must adhere to food safety regulations. This is not negotiable. We will continue to act without fear or favour against all who transgress the city’s by-laws until such transgressions are a thing of the past,” said Phalatse

"The environmental health department are obligated to enforce applicable legislation and to ensure that premises are complaint with provisions of such laws. Failure to remove or abate conditions that are unsightly, offensive, hazardous or detrimental to the health and well-being of people may result in litigation actions,” she added.

Food Lover's Holdings, in a statement, said it would get to the bottom of the rodent problem at this particular shop and that a pest-control company was already doing regular inspections. It confirmed an environmental health team had been out in November.

“The store is also contracted to the pest control company, Rentokil, which does regular inspections and provides the necessary services regarding the rodent and pest control.”

The company added that it had been battling to combat the presence of rodents around its stores for years and blamed the ongoing issue on the surrounding areas, especially Diepkloof, which they say are in a "disgusting state".

"This area has acted as an informal dumping site for years without any remedial action being taken by the city. 

"It would assist our cause greatly if the municipality were to clean up the area as the lack of rubbish removal most certainly acts as a fertile breeding ground for rodents and the like. Residents of these areas deserve no less," Food Lover's Holdings' legal director Nigel Meintjes told IOL.

Food Lover’s Holdings, meanwhile, released a statement last week in which it apologised to its loyal customers.

In the statement, chief executive Brian Coppin said: “The board of Food Lover's has instructed the franchisee owner to temporarily close the store with immediate effect.”

He said stores were subject to a monthly mystery shopper visit by an independent company and were audited by their internal health and safety division on a quarterly basis.

“Clearly our standards have not been maintained at the Diepkloof store and, for that reason, we apologise to all our loyal customers.”

The Diepkloof store would soon undergo a scheduled revamp to bring it in line with the image achieved in the newer stores, Coppin added.

@annacox