Dollar Tree owner fined more than $41m over rat-infested warehouse

The owners of Dollar Tree have been ordered to pay over $41m after they held food, drugs, medical devices and cosmetics in their rodent-infested distribution centre.

The US Department of Justice charged Family Dollar Stores LLC, a subsidiary of Dollar Tree Inc., with one misdemeanour count of causing Federal Drug Administration products to become adulterated while being held under insanitary conditions.

The company admitted to the crime on Monday as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

According to court documents, the company shipped products from its West Memphis, Arkansas warehouse to more than 400 Family Dollar stores in Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.

In August 2020, the company started receiving reports of deliveries infested with mice and pest issues. Toward the end of the year, some stores reported receiving rodents and rodent-damaged products from the centre.

Representatives with Family Dollar Stores LLC told DOJ investigators that some of its employees had known about the conditions in the warehouse and how those conditions had caused products to become damaged by 2021.

The problem persisted, according to the DOJ. Shipments from the warehouse continued to be sent out to stores until January 2022. At that time, an FDA inspection revealed live rodents, dead and decaying rodents, rodent faeces, urine, and odours and evidence of gnawing and nesting throughout the warehouse.

Approximately 1,270 rodents were exterminated as part of a subsequent fumigation. In February of 2022, the company recalled several products that it had been selling since the year prior.

The company has been hit with the largest criminal penalty in a food safety case, the DOJ said. Family Dollar and Dollar Tree must also meet corporate compliance and reporting requirements over the next three years as part of the plea agreement.

“Having reached full resolution with the DOJ, we are continuing to move forward on our business transformation, safety procedures and compliance initiatives,” Dollar Tree CEO Rick Drieling said in a written statement.

“When I joined Dollar Tree’s Board of Directors in March 2022, I was very disappointed to learn about these unacceptable issues at one of Family Dollar’s facilities.”