The importance of compliance and cooperation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in any investigation and/or enforcement was underlined by the penalty imposed on Asia Poultry & Meat Ltd earlier this month.
Birmingham meat processing plant, Asia Poultry & Meat Ltd, plead guilty to removing meat detained by FSA due to rodent activity on site. The business received a fine and costs totalling more than a quarter of a million pounds from Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
The incident took place after the FSA found evidence of rodent activity during an unannounced inspection in October 2017. Inspectors took immediate action to stop the site operations and temporarily detained unwrapped products to assess if they were suitable for human consumption. When the FSA inspectors returned the next day, they found evidence that the seals used to detain the product had been tampered with and that items had been moved or were missing. Asia Poultry and Meat Ltd were warned about the consequences of breaching the detention notice before FSA staff returned to find more meat had been moved following the first breach.
At sentencing, District Judge Jan Jellema stated he considered the matter to be a very serious offence. “It is clear and obvious the motivation was financial ... I bear in mind the fine must be sufficiently substantial to bring home the need to comply…”
Chief Operating Officer at the FSA, Dr Colin Sullivan, commented: “We will continue to investigate and prosecute any food business who fails to uphold acceptable food hygiene standards on behalf of the consumer.”
The level of this fine underlines the importance of compliance with FSA investigations and enforcement actions and the aggravating factors of placing financial objectives over and above food safety. Also, the larger fines that may now be imposed at Magistrates’ court level.