A NURSERY has been fined a record £60,000 after a dead mouse was found in the kitchen and droppings were discovered near a baby bottle steriliser.

The owners of Positive Steps Children's Day Nursery in Shellingford, near Faringdon pleaded guilty to five food safety and hygiene offences and were handed the record fine at Oxford Magistrates' Court earlier this week.

But the nursery currently has a four-star food hygiene rating after bouncing back at an inspection at the end of last year and was praised by a judge for taking prompt action.

When Vale of White Horse District Council inspectors visited in May last year they found a dead mouse in the kitchen and rodent faeces on surfaces by chopping boards, by food and by a baby bottle steriliser.

Fruit and vegetables were also stored open and uncovered in the food area that mice could get to and droppings were found in cupboard containing utensils.

The problems stemmed from a hole in the wall of the food area, holes in the external wall for piping and the back door being left open as the ventilation was broken.

The kitchen was immediately closed as inspectors felt it posed an imminent risk to the health of children and staff at the nursery.

The Vale's cabinet member for environment, Elaine Ware, said: "The level of the fine shows how seriously the authorities take severe breaches such as this.

"It was felt the condition of the kitchen was risking the health of the children and staff at the nursery.

"Children under five years of age are particularly at risk of infection as their immune systems are not yet fully developed."

She added: "While we are pleased the nursery responded positively, I hope that this case will serve as a reminder to all other organisations, which cater for the public, to ensure their food hygiene standards are not allowed to fall."

The nursery, which is under the Busy Bees group, pleaded guilty to all the offences and were handed the largest fine to date for a prosecution by Vale of White Horse District Council.

District Judge Kamlesh Rana said she found there had been a lack of overseeing and training, and that the nursery knew there had been a pest control problem for a considerable time, according to the council.

She also added it was fortunate there had been no injury to the vulnerable group in the nursery's care but took into account the steps promptly taken by the nursery, its previous good record and early guilty plea.

A revisit in November led to inspectors rating the nursery 'good' for food hygiene and safety and issuing them with four stars.