Pioneer Foods admitted that “mistakes were made” in a statement after the court ruling. Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard it placed unsafe meat on the market between December 2014 and December 2015.
The firm also failed to inform the authorities immediately after its discovery of listeria, failed to keep meat production areas clean and failed to ensure food handlers were supervised and properly trained in food hygiene.
The court heard that poor drainage meant waste water from raw meat areas flowed back into the cooked meat production room.
Close the cooked meats department
Pioneer Foods first discovered listeria in its cooked meats by in-house testing in October 2015. It closed its cooked meats department at the beginning of November 2015.
A Pioneer Foods statement said: “We fully recognise that in this department, mistakes were made and we fell far short of the standards we should have held ourselves to. We wish to give our customers complete reassurance in the ongoing integrity and safety of all our products.
“The company has the strongest procedures and standards of independently and externally audited hygiene control in place to ensure there can never be any repeat of what happened. In our remaining departments, our processors operate to nationally recognised methods that carry full approval to public sector standards.”
The firm was fined £275,000 on one of the charges, with no penalties on the other charges. It was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £28,907 with a victim’s surcharge of £125. Pioneer Foods asked for one month to pay the fine.
Carlisle City Council’s Chris Southward said: “The high profile case, and the substantial court fine and costs, sends out a clear message to local food businesses of the importance of preparing food safely and adhering to food safety management systems which all food businesses must have in place.
‘Will not be tolerated’
“Our main priority as the local food authority is to protect the consumer and food hygiene breaches of these type will not be tolerated,” the environment and transport portfolio holder said.
The company, which supplied hospitals, schools and care homes, operated three butchers’ shops, in Carlisle, Gateshead and Harrington. All three carried hygiene ratings of five out of five, Pioneer said.
Meanwhile, a Birmingham bakery was fined £60,000 for a mouse infestation in November, after droppings were discovered throughout the building. Patisserie Holdings was fined after pleading guilty to four food safety offences.
Pioneer Foods’s food safety offences – at a glance
- Placed batches of food on market that were contaminated with listeria and were unfit for human consumption
- Failed to immediately inform the competent authorities after discovering listeria
- Failed to keep cooked meat production area clean and maintained in good repair
- Failed to ensure food handlers were supervised and trained in food hygiene matters
- Failed to ensure staff received adequate training
- Failing to protect against contamination and poor drainage resulting in waste water from raw meat areas flowing back into the cooked meat production room