Farmbox Meats duo found guilty of falsely labelling goat meat as lamb and mutton

The owner and manager of Aberystwyth-based Farmbox Meats have been found guilty of falsely describing food contrary to the Food Safety Act. 

Dafydd Raw-Rees, Farmbox Meats owner, and Colin Patterson, manager, both pleaded guilty in Southwark Crown Court to falsely describing food and failing to comply with food traceability requirements.

Raw-Rees received a two-year conditional discharge while Patterson was given a 12-week sentence that was suspended for two years.

Farmbox first came to the attention of the police and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as part of the horsemeat scandal following the revelation that one of its suppliers may have provided the company with horsemeat labelled as beef. These investigations turned up no evidence of horsemeat being labelled as beef.

It was only when the FSA investigated the rest of the business, it was found to be labelling goat meat as lamb and mutton. According to the prosecution, there was large amounts of goat meat slaughtered aboard that had been sealed, packaged and labelled ready for sale as lamb and mutton.

During the course of the investigation, Patterson had blamed the mislabelling on a staff error and said he couldn’t tell the difference between lamb and goat.

When handing down the verdict, Judge Alistair McCreath described the company’s record keeping as “extremely negligent” and said it was Patterson’s “duty to keep proper records”.

Commenting on the verdict, Aled Owen, solicitor at JCP Solicitors, representing Raw-Rees and Patterson told Meat Trades Journal:

“Three years ago my clients were arrested on allegations of passing off horsemeat as beef, which led to a comprehensive and very expensive investigation by both the police and the FSA. The remit of the investigation was to consider an allegation relating to horsemeat. When this investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing relating to horsemeat it was only then that they looked at other issues in relation to the supply chain at the plant. In the continued investigating of the business they found only one issue at the plant regarding goat being sold as mutton, representing only 0.03% of the company’s total trade. As a result they charged my clients with technical offences relating to the audit process.

“Yesterday my clients pleaded to these technical offences which were dealt with by way of a conditional discharge and a suspended sentence without any attachments to the order and no order for costs.

“The disappointment for both clients is that this matter need to have taken the conclusion it did. The plant passed every inspection up until the arrest and did not receive any information that anything was wrong with the processes and systems on site. Our clients consider the regulator failed to provide sufficient guidance in their inspection of the plant and then did not give the directors an opportunity to rectify these omissions as an alternative to prosecution.”

Owen added the case had cost his client more than £1 million pounds.

“My clients are glad the matter is over and are now trying to re build their business after this difficult time. They would though like to thank those within the trade and their community who have supported them throughout.”

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