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Lawrenceville store forced to stop selling food because of rodent infestation

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Lawrenceville convenience store was ordered to stop selling food because of a rodent infestation, the Georgia Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.

The Shell Food Mart at 850 Scenic Highway was issued a Stop-Sale Order on Monday after an inspector for the department found fresh and dried rodent droppings, urine stains on packages of foods, a decomposed mouse on a glue board and live mice in the store, an inspection report from the Department of Agriculture indicated.

"Several live mice fell out of one of the products our inspector picked up," Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin said.

Irvin said the store will not be allowed to start selling food again until an administrative hearing is held. Irvin said he was unsure when the hearing would occur.

The store owner, Viral Pandya, could be fined or have his license to sell food revoked at the hearing, Irvin said.

"It's absolutely deplorable that a tenant would allow a store to get in this condition," Irvin said. "It's deplorable and will not be tolerated in this department."

Pandya said this was unusual and unexpected for his store, and he thought the situation had been overblown by the Department of Agriculture.

"They made a very big issue about it, but it was not that serious an issue," Pandya said.

The inspection report indicated $200 worth of assorted food products were voluntarily destroyed by Pandya due to rodent contamination.

Pandya said an exterminator was called immediately, the store was thoroughly cleaned and steps had been taken to prevent entry of the mice in the future.

"Ask any of my customers and they'll let you know how my store is," Pandya said. "We get compliments every week. We've never had this problem - never."

But the store has had other problems reported at prior inspections. The inspection report from Monday indicated that on Sept. 18, 2006, the store was found with 47 outdated items and a build-up of carbonation on the soda fountain machine.

The build-up on the soda fountain machine was still a problem Monday, the report indicated, and the store was also cited for not having any hot water, having improperly stored products in a storage area and having no weather stripping on the rear exit.

Pandya had the weather stripping added by early Tuesday afternoon.