Freeza Meats Ltd, based in Newry, pleaded guilty to 12 food fraud offences at Newry Magistrate’s Court. The offences included: substituting meat ingredients with cheaper products, such as hearts, falsely claiming meat ingredients met Halal standards and providing false documentation to inspection officers. See more information on the offences in the box below.
The firm was said to have deceived not only consumers but its supermarket customer Asda.
The Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland (FSA NI) welcomed Freeza Meats Ltd's guilty plea to the food fraud charges.
FSA NI director Maria Jennings said consumers deserved to know that the food they bought was what it claimed to be.
‘Committing food fraud’
“Firm action is being taken by district councils against businesses committing food fraud and we welcome the decision by Newry Magistrate’s Court to penalise Freeza Meats Ltd for these offences,” said Jennings.
“The result is a real victory for consumers, it shows that enforcement procedures work and sends out a strong message to any food business that is tempted to commit fraud.
“Any food business found to be undertaking fraudulent practices will be subject to rigorous investigation, including the seizing and interrogation of all evidence.”
Freeza Meats reckoning
- £42,500: fine for 12 food fraud offences
- £71,902.73: court costs
- £180: offender’s levy
Newry Mourne and Down District Council had invested significant time and resource into the investigation and the result was testament to its efforts to ensure consumers are not misled through misdescription of food products, she added.
Other illegal activities
Investigations into allegations of other illegal activities by Freeza Meats Ltd were said to be continuing.
The firm was fined a total of £42,500, and ordered to pay court costs of £71,902.73 and an offender’s levy of £180.
Freeza Meats was prosecuted under the Food Safety Order (NI) 1991 and the General Food Regulations (NI) 2004. The firm was originally charged with 71 offences, involving failure to comply with EC food regulations.
The business – which no longer trades – was at the centre of the horsemeat scandal of 2013.
Freeza Meats’ food fraud offences
- Substitution of meat ingredients with cheaper product, such as hearts, and subsequently not declaring hearts as an ingredient on the label, therefore not only misleading a major supermarket retailer, but also deceiving customers.
- Failure to provide on request by Newry and Mourne District Council information relating to whom they supplied meat products (traceability) on nine occasions.
- Misdescription of product as Halal when non-Halal ingredients were used.
- Obstruction of authorised officers by knowingly providing false and misleading documentation
Source: FSA NI