Stowmarket: Food firm hit with large fine after admitting to three offences
- Credit: Archant
Health inspectors were deliberately stalled at a food factory in Suffolk while attempts were made to hide potentially dangerous chicken products, a court has heard.
The 2 Sisters Food Group, which has a base at Haughley Park in Stowmarket, was fined £112,500 after pleading guilty to failing to maintain food safety standards at their Suffolk hub in 2011.
Ipswich Crown Court was told health officials first visited the site in 2010 where it was discovered vacuum and modified atmosphere-packed products were given a shelf life longer than the 10 days recommended by the Food Standards Agency, to ensure to ensure food remains safe.
An inspection a year later revealed the practice was ongoing so a remedial action notice was given to them, which told the company to correct the problem.
While it was initially adhered to, the firm returned to producing products with a longer shelf life than 10 days so a further notice was made on July 1.
But during an unannounced visit on July 5, 2011, the court was told health inspectors were deliberately obstructed for about 28 minutes while attempts were made to hide the offending products in lorries – but some of the items were still discovered.
Production records were then asked for but they took up to seven weeks to be sent to inspectors, and some of the information had to be taken directly from the firm’s clients.
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During the hearing at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, the company pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to comply with a notice, one of failing to have a suitable food safety management system in place and failure to provide records.
Marilyn Curran, Mid Suffolk District Council’s portfolio member for environmental health and housing, said: “In Mid Suffolk, we will always do what we can to support businesses and our Food and Safety team spend the majority of their time giving advice to food businesses to help them improve food safety.
“Where our advice is ignored and we feel that consumers are being put at risk however, we are always prepared to step in to protect the public.”
In mitigation, the court was told that procedures and practices have now been put in place to stop similar incidents and that nobody was adversely affected by the products.
It was also stated there was no evidence to suggest the problems at Haughley Park happened at any of the company’s other sites in the UK.
A statement from the company, read out in court, said: “They have expressed a sincere apology on behalf of the company to the local authority officers for the way they were treated at the site.
“It should never have happened and it is an embarrassment to the company.”
The company was fined £112,500, ordered to pay costs of £41,192.97 and a victim surcharge of £15.