A Suffolk-based jam manufacturer and the firm’s director have both been fined £4,250 and ordered to pay £6,500 costs, after pleading guilty to 13 charges of falsely claiming that the company’s jams contained locally sourced produce.
Stonham Hedgerow − which is based in Hemingstone, near Ipswich − produced premium brand jams that listed Suffolk or English fruits as a key ingredient. But charges covering the period from January 1, 2010, to March 15, 2011, said some of the labelling was misleading.
Director Katherine Neuteboom and her company admitted the charges when the case came before South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court.
Suffolk Trading Standards brought the prosecution after officers found the company was unable to verify its claims about the origin of the fruit during a routine inspection.
In a subsequent investigation officers examined paperwork trails to trace the true origin of the fruit and identified false origin claims in six varieties of the company’s jam.
The labels claimed they contained strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, and rhubarb, grown by Suffolk suppliers.
But, the court was told, trading standards officers discovered that fruits from Poland and China had been used in some cases. On other occasions, rhubarb and blackberries from Yorkshire were found in jams.
During the investigation, Neuteboom admitted she had knowingly used fruit that wasn’t from Suffolk, but she had failed to change the product labelling. The court heard that the business had been under financial pressure, and Neuteboom looked to buy in cheaper ingredients from elsewhere in a bid to cut costs.
Clare Davies, senior trading standards officer and lead food officer for Suffolk County Council, said: “This is an example of a company misleading the public in a misguided attempt to save money and cut corners to produce a cheaper product. This has cost them a great deal of money as the court placed a hefty fine on the business for the seriousness of the offence.
“Our officers regularly check claims on food because it is imperative that consumers have complete confidence that claims are honest and truthful. There was no way consumers would have known that the claimed local origin of these products was a far cry from reality.”
Davies added: “We have some fantastic food and drink in Suffolk, which makes it even more important that we maintain the high standards by taking action against those who make false claims.”
Stonham Hedgerow’s premium brand jams sell for up to £3.99 per jar.
Nick Powell, supply chain manager from Treelinks, one of the suppliers that helped Suffolk Trading Standards to trace fruit to Poland, said: “I hope this outcome sends a clear message to every business that they must advertise their products correctly.”
The business and Neuteboom were each fined a total of £4,250 and ordered to pay £6,500 court costs. The firm was also ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.