Food Law News - UK - 2012

FSA News item, 14 February 2012

HYGIENE - Successful prosecution for over-temperature meat

The Food Standards Agency has won a case in the Old Bailey, against a meat company that failed to make sure meat was kept chilled throughout the entire food chain. A C Hopkins (Taunton) Ltd was charged, and found guilty, of an offence under the Food Hygiene (England) Regulations 2006.

The allegation was that in April 2010, the company failed to ensure, as required by European Union Hygiene Regulations, that pig carcasses were immediately chilled in the slaughterhouse to ensure a temperature throughout the meat of not more than 7°C and then kept at that temperature during transport.

When a consignment of pig carcasses was delivered to a company at London Smithfield Market, they were checked by an authorised officer and 12 were found to be in excess of 7°C, with recorded temperatures of between 11.6°C and 14.6°C. Expert evidence was used to support the FSA’s contention that the meat could not have achieved those temperatures after arrival at Smithfield Market.

Having considered the evidential and public interest criteria for prosecution, the FSA initiated proceedings against the company at City of London Magistrates Court in March 2011. The defence elected to have the case heard by the Crown Court rather than Magistrates Court. The trial before jury took place at the Old Bailey and lasted for six days from 6 February 2012. A guilty verdict was delivered yesterday, 13 February 2012. Sentencing has been adjourned until a date to be fixed in April.

Tim Smith, FSA Chief Executive, said: ‘When we find evidence that public health is being put at risk, we will always consider pursuing a prosecution. Food businesses know the rules for meat hygiene, and it is their responsibility to ensure they follow them. The meat "cold chain" always needs to be maintained – this means keeping meat at the correct temperature throughout storage and transport. If it is broken, and the temperature of meat is allowed to rise, dangerous pathogens such as E.coli O157 can grow. If this meat is then eaten without thorough cooking, the health consequences can be very serious.’

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