Courts hear cases against EuroFreeze, John Tudor

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Euro freeze, Food standards agency, Fsa

A new round of court hearings against two processors, and the
possible consideration of chargesagainst a third, indicates that
the UK regulator is taking a tougher approach to breaches of
foodsafety law.

The separate court cases involve Euro Freeze, for allegedly redistributing fraudulently labelledmeat, and John Tudor & Sons, for breaches of food safety that led to the death of a young boy.The Food Standards Agency said it was also considering another case against West Devon Meat.

In the case of Euro Freeze in Northern Ireland, representatives of the company are due to appeartoday (15 January) before Magistrates' Court as the cold store operations faces a second round ofcharges it illegally repackaged, re-labelled and distributed meat throughout the EU.

Food fraud can result in processors receiving illegally sourced meat that that may be of lowquality or even unfit for human consumption, posing a health risk for consumers and a businessproblem for manufacturers.

Since the investigation into the Euro Freeze case began in November 2005, the Food StandardsAgency (FSA), and EU regulators, have been tightening regulations on inspection, labelling andtraceability.

In August last year, a UK court condemned the meat from Euro Freeze as having illegal health labeling and ordered the destruction of 254 pallets.The judge concluded that health marks found at the premises were illicit and that the company wasinvolved in repackaging contrary to the terms of their licence. The new court hearing, which isscheduled to last for two weeks, will focus on a second seizure of meat and poultry at Euro Freeze.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) closed down Euro Freeze in November 2005, sparked an EU-wide hunt for products that used ingredients originating from the coldstore.

The closure was ordered after the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development seized ashipment of poultry from China that was destined for Euro Freeze. This shipment was destroyed due to violations of animal health standards. The FSA had applied for the meat to be condemned as part of the continuing investigation.

The case against John Tudor & Sons and the company's owners, involves an E. colicontamination outbreak in 2005 that led to the death of a five-year-old boy. The E. coli outbreakalso caused sickness in about 161 people.

The company and its owners faces 13 food hygiene charges, filed by three local authorities in Wales. Six of the charges relate to supplying contaminated meat that led to a death. The other seven deal with food safety breaches at the company's meat processing plant.

The seven charges brought by Bridgend town council include allegations that the company failed to ensure parts of the food premises on the Bridgend Industrial Estate were kept clean.

In the UK local councils are responsible for implementing food safety laws, with the FSA acting as the supervisory regulator.

In court last week, one of the company's owners, William Tudor, pleaded not guilty to thecharges.

The case will now go before the crown court.

John Tudor & Sons supplied schools, retirement homes and retail outlets with meats. Thefirm was later investigated by food inspectors in relation to disinfection procedures and its vacuum packing process at its plant in South Wales.

The plant reopened in December 2005 but management has since decided to close for good, making all staff redundant.

A final administrative hearing is due to be heard at Bridgend Magistrates' Court on 15 February.

The case has sparked an ongoing police investigation into the plant and its managers. A public inquiry into the case is also ongoing, an FSA spokesperson said.

The FSA is also due to send the results of its investigation into a possible breach of BSE rulesby Devon Meat to Defra's legal department for a decision on whether or not to prosecute the company..

West Devon Meat, had its licence to kill over 30-month cattle suspended on 1 December, afterinspectors found irregularities in the company's BSE testing procedures.

The incident was caused when the FSA discovered that one of the sample pots that was sent to the testing laboratory contained two samples. As a result, one more sample was sent for testing than the number of animals that had to been slaughtered.The FSA decided to investigate via DNA testing.

The results showed that one of the brain samples did not match any of the carcasses the companysaid had been slaughtered in the batch. West Devon Meat slaughters between 900 and 1,000 cattle aweek and exports around 75 per cent of its products to other European countries.

"We expect to receive the investigation officer's report shortly,"​ said FSAchief executive John Harwood in an update of the cases last week.

The file will then be referred to Defra Legal Department for consideration of whether to prosecute West DevonMeat.

Defra has also launched an investigation to determine whether brain stem samples had been allegedly switched to avoidbreaches of the over 30-month (OTM) BSE tests. The incident relating to the samples occurred on 24 November, when one sample pot was found to contain two samples, but there was no empty pot when a batch of 357 brain test samples.

When this was discovered, on 25 November, Defra decided to DNA-test these samples, another five each side of the doubled-up sample and the sample from the final two animals slaughtered that day - a total of 13 carcases and 14 brain stem samples. The DNA results showed that one of the brain samples did not match any of the carcases

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the incident was not considered a health risk, as the batch of 10 cattle linked to the suspect sample were detained and no parts of the animals entered the food chain.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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