Meat company prosecuted for hygiene breach

A meat company has been successfully prosecuted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for breaching food hygiene regulations by failing to ensure that meat was kept chilled throughout the food chain.

AC Hopkins (Taunton) Ltd was found guilty of the offence, which took place in April 2010, at the Old Bailey after a six-day trial. Sentencing has been adjourned until April.

The case alleged that, in April 2010, the company failed to ensure that pig carcases were immediately chilled in the slaughterhouse to ensure that the temperature throughout the meat was not more than 7°C, and then kept at that temperature during transport.

When a consignment of pig carcases was delivered to a company at London Smithfield Market, they were checked by an authorised officer and 12 were found to be in excess of 7°C, with recorded temperatures of between 11.6°C and 14.6°C. Expert evidence was used to support the FSA’s contention that the meat could not have achieved those temperatures after arrival at Smithfield Market.

The FSA initiated proceedings against the company at City of London Magistrates Court in March 2011, but the defence elected to have the case heard by the Crown Court rather than Magistrates Court.

Tim Smith, FSA chief executive, said: "When we find evidence that public health is being put at risk, we will always consider pursuing a prosecution. Food businesses know the rules for meat hygiene, and it is their responsibility to ensure they follow them.

"The meat ‘cold chain’ always needs to be maintained – this means keeping meat at the correct temperature throughout storage and transport. If it is broken, and the temperature of meat is allowed to rise, dangerous pathogens such as E.coli O157 can grow. If this meat is then eaten without thorough cooking, the health consequences can be very serious"

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