Directors of Irish food company sentenced to jail

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Euro freeze Food standards agency United kingdom Republic of ireland

Two directors of a company involved in the Euro Freeze fraud case
are going to jail for four months after being found guilty
yesterday of breaching Ireland's food safety laws.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said Ciaran McCabe and Ann McCabe of D'Arcy Foods were convicted by County Monaghan District Court of 36 charges relating to the illegal use of a veterinary control label, and with tampering with documents related to a consignment of beef cheek meat. Judge Flann Brennan imposed prison sentences of four months on each director. Food fraud can result in processors receiving illegally sourced meat that that may be of low quality or even unfit for human consumption, posing a health risk for consumers and a business problem for manufacturers. Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd., a Northern Ireland meat coldstore operation, was prosecuted in May under UK law for offences under the hygiene regulations. The offences included illegally putting false official health certificates on the meat products. The Euro Freeze case highlights the need for traceability controls so that processors can ensure they do not fall afoul of food safety laws. D'Arcy Foods was one of the companies caught up in the case after the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2005 issued a series of EU-wide alerts about the circulation of illegal labelled meat products from a coldstore in Northern Ireland. Ireland's food regulator then announced its inspectors had discovered illegal labels on foods sent to D'Arcy Food. A veterinary control label is an official mark stamped either directly on the surface of meat or on the label of packaged meat and indicates that the meat has undergone correct inspection. The label also contains information on the country of origin and the official number of the slaughter or cutting plant. In sentencing the two directors of D'Arcy Foods yesterday, Judge Brennan said the four month sentences would not be suspended. He also imposed fines totalling €14,400 on the company along with costs adding up to €4,400. The FSAI noted Judge Brennan's comments that the offences were very serious and that he was satisfied that it is fortunate that no harm was done. "He stated that as directors, Ciaran McCabe and Ann McCabe must take personal responsibility in respect of what occurred and that he was satisfied that this was an offence which could cause grave danger,"​ the FSAI reported. John O'Brien, FSAI's chief executive, said the judgement serves as a strong warning that breaches of food safety legislation will be prosecuted. "We hope that this verdict sends out a clear message that the FSAI will take the necessary legal action to prevent risks to public health and breaches of legislation,"​ he said. "This judgment should heighten the awareness of those involved in the food sector of their legal obligations to produce and provide safe food in accordance with legislation."​ In related news the FSA yesterday also reported that the conviction against Euro Freeze (Ireland) Ltd, which was secured at Enniskillen Magistrates Court on 9 May 2007, has been voided. The court voided the conviction following a declaration by the Euro Freeze's company secretary that she was unaware of the summons or proceedings relating to the case. The FSA said its officials are in discussion with the Public Prosecution Service to consider how to proceed further on the matter. Since the investigation into the Euro Freeze case began in November 2005, the FSA and EU regulators have been tightening laws on inspection, labelling and traceability throughout the supply chain. The investigation began when Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and district council investigating officers made the food safety regulator aware of possible unlawful activity at a coldstore operated by Euro Freeze. The closure of the company was ordered after the DARD seized a shipment of poultry from China that was destined for Euro Freeze. The shipment was destroyed due to violations of animal health standards. The FSA investigation looked into the large quantity of foodstuffs found in the coldstore that had been illegally repackaged and re-labelled. The coldstore licence was suspended and the meats were removed and condemned. 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 was involved in repackaging contrary to the terms of their licence.

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