Due to the risk of cross-contamination posed by the use of the vacuum packing machine, officers took action which required the business to prohibit this practice.
Peter Willis, managing director of Douglas Willis Retail Limited, pleaded guilty to the charges of exposing food to a risk of contamination, failing to supervise staff, and failing to implement adequate food safety control measures while appearing at Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court on 19 October 2023.
The violations were discovered during a routine inspection of the butcher shop in Cwmbran, South Wales, during August 2022, when environmental health officers discovered that a machine was being used to vacuum pack both raw and cooked meats.
As a result of Willis’ guilty pleas, the fines were reduced for each offence from £450 to £300, while Willis was also ordered to pay £1,713.33 to the council to cover costs and a victim surcharge of £360.
Consumers lucky to avoid serious illness
During the proceedings the court heard about a case from 2005 where similar use of vacuum packaging machine caused an outbreak of E coli O157 in South Wales. As a result, more than 150 people contracted food poisoning and one child died.
“It’s a cliché, but it’s more down to luck, rather than judgement, that officers did not receive reports of serious illness from people having consumed vacuum packaged meats from the premises,” said councillor Mandy Owen, executive member for the environment.
“The risks associated with using a single vacuum packing machines for packaging raw and cooked foods is well documented, with the Food Standards Agency publishing extensive guidance on controlling cross-contamination, so there is no excuse in this case.
“I would encourage new or existing food businesses operating in Torfaen, who have food safety queries to seek advice from the Council’s Public Protection service."