Butcher fined for mislabelling meat

One of the West Country’s best-known butcher’s has been ordered to pay a total of £15,000 in fines and costs after claiming its beef and lamb was 'local' when in fact it had come from as far away as Shropshire.

Gerald David and Family Ltd, which owns a number of shops in Devon and Somerset, was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £12,000 costs at Bridgwater Magistrates Court in Somerset on 19 December, having entered guilty pleas to six charges that its labelling of beef and lamb was misleading consumers.

The company has also signed cautions in respect of three other similar offences. All offences occurred during a six-month period between June and December 2009.

Descriptions in the company’s Taunton and Dulverton shops, and on its internet pages, described the beef on sale as ‘Devon Beef’ and the lamb as ‘Exmoor Lamb’ when a significant proportion of the beef was not from Devon, and a significant proportion of the lamb was not from Exmoor.

The court heard the company purchased cattle and lambs from a livestock auction in Ludlow, Shropshire. The animals were transported to the company’s abattoir in Porlock, Somerset and the meat distributed to some of its shops. A Trading Standards investigation included tracing the movements of over 600 cattle that were processed by the Porlock abattoir during a six-month period.

Authorised officer Marie Clements, who was involved with the investigation, said after the hearing: “This was a very detailed, comprehensive and professional investigation, with over 60 prosecution statements and over 1,600 pages of exhibits. When we began the prosecution, the defence solicitor challenged every aspect of the investigation and decision-making processes, claiming abuse of process. However, despite many delays, we finally achieved a successful outcome, exactly a year after the summonses were served.”

In a statement after the case, Gerald David apologised for mislabelling some of the meat. “We source meat from many farms across the West Country and have built up strong relationships with lots of local farmers over the years.

"However, to ensure our meat is always of the highest quality and to meet the high demand, we have found it necessary to source some animals from Shropshire, all of which are hand-picked by us, so we are confident of their quality. During the time in question, we labelled some of this meat incorrectly and for this I apologise.”

Had the Magistrates deemed the company’s mistake deliberate and significant, then it was within their power to have imposed a greater penalty of up to £30,000, he said. It was the first time in over 40 years that he or his family had been involved in any investigation. “The errors made were completely unintentional; as soon as I became aware of the situation it was rectified immediately and I have now put procedures in place that will ensure similar mistakes do not happen again.”

He added that the business had co-operated fully with the investigation and he was disappointed the case had taken so long to be resolved.

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