Newry food business fined £70k over ‘beef heart in burgers’ scandal

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Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Business, Community, News
A Newry food business, Freeza Meats Ltd, has pleaded guilty in Newry Magistrates Court to a total of twelve offences relating to misdescription of food, failing to provide traceability information and obstructing Authorised Officers of the former Newry and Mourne District Council.
Freeza Meats in Greenbank Industrial Estate

Freeza Meats was based in Greenbank Industrial Estate

Following an in-depth investigation into the practices at the Freeza Meats Ltd by Newry & Mourne District Council’s Environmental Health Department and the Food Standards Agency, Judge King fined Freeza Meats Ltd £42,500 and awarded £71,902.73 costs, along with £180 offender’s levy. The investigation discovered offences which took place in 2012 and 2013 by Freeza Meats Ltd relating to regular and systematic substitution of meat ingredients with cheaper product, ie hearts, and subsequently not declaring hearts as an ingredient on the label, therefore not only misleading a major supermarket retailer, but also deceiving customers. Freeza Meats Ltd pleaded guilty to these offences and to failing to provide on request by Newry & Mourne District Council information relating to whom they supplied meat products (traceability) on nine occasions. Newry & Mourne District Council also found extensive evidence that the company was misdescribing product as Halal when non-Halal ingredients were used. Freeza Meats Ltd pleaded guilty to three charges encapsulating 37 occasions. They pleaded guilty to a further charge in relation to the obstruction of authorised officers by ‘knowingly providing false and misleading documentation’. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Cllr Naomi Bailie welcomed the outcome. Speaking to Newry Times, she said, “Following the horsemeat scandal, consumer confidence in what people are eating has been affected. meat1“While there is no risk to public health, this case has shown that District Council Environmental Health Officers have the legal powers and ability to investigate these serious types of food fraud. “This goes towards helping to restore consumer confidence and protecting the unwitting consumer from being misled and at the same time providing an even playing field for all the other businesses within the district and beyond who are operating with responsible and legitimate practices.” Eoin Devlin, Assistant Director of Health & Wellbeing commented, “Supported by the Food Standards Agency, this is the first investigation of this kind by any UK local authority. “Unprecedented steps had to be taken to investigate the practices of the company including the seizure of large quantities of paper and computer records and forensic analysis of these documents to uncover fraudulent practices going on in the business. Eoin added, “We have worked with authorities across the UK and our counterparts in the Republic of Ireland to gather extensive evidence to prove this case.” More on this story: Horsemeat found in Newry beef ‘Ireland’s excellent food record should not be undermined’ – Brady after Newry horsemeat incident ‘Misinformation could put jobs unnecessarily at risk’ – Freeza Meats
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