Premier Foods, which makes Hovis bread, Branston pickle and Bisto gravy, was ordered to pay £17,000 yesterday after a man from Kidlington in Oxfordshire found a dead mouse in a loaf of bread as he made sandwiches for his children.
Stephen Forse says he had already eaten some slices from the loaf -- purchased online through a Tesco branch in Bicester in January 2009 -- before he noticed "a dark-coloured object embedded in the corner of three or four slices".
"Initially I thought it was where the dough had not mixed properly prior to baking," he said.
"As I looked closer I saw that the object had fur on it."
Mr Forse decided to call Cherwell District Council and environmental health officers paid him a visit to collect evidence. They concluded it was a squashed mouse -- minus its tail. "Their comments made me feel ill as there was no indication as to where the tail was... Had it fallen off prior to the bread being wrapped or had any of my family eaten it with another slice of bread on a previous day?"
Appearing at Oxford Crown Court in July, lawyers for Premier Foods admitted the company had "failed to maintain acceptable standards" at its British Bakeries site in London, and yesterday were fined £5,500 and ordered to pay £11,109.47 in costs.
A company spokesperson said: "We apologise profusely for the distress caused as a result of this isolated incident.
"As soon as this complaint was made we stopped all bakery production at that site and appointed an independent specialist contractor to conduct a thorough investigation.
"They confirmed this to be an isolated incident, affecting a single product.
"There was no evidence of mice within the bakery and no history of any similar issues."