Child detention centre had catering certification suspended over rodent infestation

Records show the facility had struggled with major pest-control issues involving rats, mice, insects and diseased rabbits

Oberstown Children Detention Campus had its catering standards certification suspended earlier this year due to a major infestation of rodents in the main kitchen of the facility, which it was warned could be affecting its ability to produce safe food.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act show that the facility had struggled with major pest-control issues involving rats, mice, insects and diseased rabbits on the campus for at least two years prior to the suspension.

Rodent activity was confirmed by pest controllers in “all attic areas and boiler rooms” as early as February 2020, with eight mouse carcasses removed from a single loft during one inspection.

Staff were setting their own traps for vermin in the kitchen of Trinity House on the Oberstown campus by January 2021, according to inspection reports, while mouse droppings had also been found in the home economics room in the same building.

Staff reported mice “running around” one area in October 2020 and a worker complained that they found rodent faeces on their desk and on a kitchen worktop in Tir Connell House.

Silverfish – insects that can grow up to an inch long – were found in the lower-ground kitchen, where a staff member observed that “this has become a daily occurrence”.

There were multiple reports of rodent activity in the main kitchen in the first two months of this year, and a trail of noodles, crisp packets and chocolate debris suggested rats were entering via an internal drain.

As many as seven dead rabbits were found in Oberstown in August 2020. It was not known what killed the animals, but pest controllers noted that there was “no poison present on campus, only outside [the] main reception door”.

More dead and “diseased” rabbits were reported in September 2020, and the pest-control contractor was asked to investigate. The following month, a staff member requested that a dead rabbit be removed from outside the fitness suite.

A CCTV investigation of drains on the campus in March 2022 found evidence of rodents nesting, and these were flushed out before proofing measures were carried out. The catering department’s NSAI certification was subsequently restored.

“Oberstown Children Detention Campus identified an issue with vermin in February and worked quickly in consultation with external contractors to ensure this was dealt with efficiently and effectively,” said a spokeswoman for the centre.