Stockton abattoir firm fined £13,000 for food hygiene breaches

The Northern Echo: Teesside Magistrates' Court Teesside Magistrates' Court

A COMPANY which runs a slaughterhouse has been fined almost £13,000 for a series of breaches of meat hygiene regulations designed to prevent high risk animal products entering the food chain.

Cleveland Meat Company, which runs the abattoir, in Yarm Road, Stockton, was found guilty of breaching regulations in a prosecution brought by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The company also pleaded guilty to another breach.

Teesside Magistrates' Court heard that the charges related to the disposal of parts of animal carcasses and how they are categorised.

Meat which is unfit for human consumption is dyed blue under FSA regulations but during inspections it was discovered that staff at the abattoir were not following the correct guidelines.

District Judge Adrian Lower heard evidence that when the slaughterhouse was inspected by staff from the FSA they found old sheep heads in skips which had not all been dyed correctly, as well as spinal cords from animals that had not been disposed of in the proper manner.

In mitigation Simon Catterall said the company had never been prosecuted before and never had a complaint against their reputation despite the industry being heavily regulated.

He said: "There is thousands of guidelines in this heavily regulated industry, and quite rightly so, but it's almost like driving a car with someone with a pen and paper picking up on every mistake.

"I do not make light of the regulation but it is a heavily regulated industry."

Judge Lower fined the company £1,000 for each of the 12 breaches they were found guilty of and £900 for the charge they pleaded guilty to.

He also ordered them to pay nearly £15,000 to cover the FSA's legal expenses as well as a £15 victim surcharge.

Sentencing the company, he acknowledged that there had been no previous incidents involving the company and accepted that they had tightened their controls to prevent a recurrence of the breaches.

He said: "It is an unhappy experience for the company and it's one from which they will learn. The company will take on board what has happened over the last two days.

"It is the company that I have found guilty and you understand the importance of the regulations. The regulations are designed to ensure the public health in this country."

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