The two directors of Severnside Provisions were found guilty at Newport Crown Court of 12 food hygiene offences. Anthony O'Sullivan, 47, and Martin Lincoln, 46, were jailed for 24-weeks and ordered to pay a confiscation award of £271,815 under the Proceeds of Crime Act and council costs of £35,185. The company was also fined £100,000. The sentence has been welcomed by the CIEH.
Newport EH officers found large quantities of turkey defrosting outside in dirty water in the yard of the premises at the Leeway Industrial Estate, in December 2013, and being processed in a garage in unhygienic conditions.
These were seized and destroyed but some of the turkey had already been sold to butchers' shops, restaurants and other outlets so the Food Standards Agency had to issue a national recall. Also on site was found packing, labelling and trimming equipment.
The frozen turkey being defrosted was already out-of-date and investigators had no way of knowing whether it was even frozen in-date. There was nothing to indicate whether the turkeys were fresh and therefore safe to freeze. The level of bacterial growth was a concern as well as the physical contamination, because of the unhygienic conditions, from outside or from within the building.
Regarding the new sentencing guidelines Principal EHO Sonia Bagshaw said, “It’s probably clearer now for judges and magistrates how to sentence. So as long as you build your case with that in mind then it should give councils reassurance that we won’t have the randomness of sentencing that we have had in the past.”
Newport City EH officers started an investigation into the firm after a tip-off from the Food Standards Agency. Using the Proceeds of Crime Act the investigators were able to look into the company’s financial background and found records indicating that the company had been illegally processing turkey in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – despite being told not to by the council.
Ms Bagshaw said the judge took a “dim view that they ignored the warning. Some of us expected a suspended sentence but their lack of honesty along the way didn’t do them any favours. Their deceit mislead us and the public.”
In 2010, Mr O'Sullivan had tried to pin the blame on Mr Lincoln so the council decided to prosecute both this time around so they couldn’t try to escape prosecution by blaming one another.
Bob Poole, Newport City Council's cabinet member for regulatory functions, said, “This is a satisfactory conclusion to what was a very worrying situation. This company was putting people's health at serious risk for the sake of profit. I would like to thank the environmental health and legal officers who investigated and brought this successful prosecution. I know that the majority of food producers and sellers have extremely high standards and I'm sure they share our dismay at firms who don't take the same care.”
Assurity Consulting are leading independent experts in workplace health, safety and environmental compliance. Our team of food hygiene experts have worked with some of the UK’s largest organisations to ensure that their catering operations are safe. For more information, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us.