The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has slammed the Food Standards Agency (FSA) following the Farmbox Meats verdict over the mislabelling of goat meat as lamb or mutton, earlier this week.
Speaking to Meat Trades Journal, Norman Bagley, policy director at AIMS, said the meat that was incorrectly labelled had already been identified and was not going to be sold.
The Aberystwyth-based business had been found guilty of falsely describing food contrary to the Food Safety Act. Dafydd Raw-Rees, Farmbox Meats owner, and Colin Patterson, manager, both pleaded guilty in Southwark Crown Court to falsely describing food and failing to comply with food traceability requirements.
“Farmbox pleaded guilty to having goat trim and other low value remnants labelled as mutton or lamb trim. None of this product had been sold as such and it had already been identified by the plant as incorrectly labelled and put aside. Enquiries demonstrated that, at that time, not a single plant in the UK distinguished small volumes of goat from mutton,” said Bagley.
He questioned the FSA’s approach to the situation and accused the body of neglect.
“Repeated FSA audits of the Farmbox operation had identified no problems of this nature. We question why this business was ruined because of a victimless simple mistake, involving no financial gain? We also question whether the FSA staff who failed to assist the plant by neglecting to identify and warn of this problem during many routine audits have been dismissed or disciplined?”
Bagley praised the judge for the two-year conditional discharge and 12-week suspended sentence handed down to Raw-Rees and Patterson respectively.
“In Court the owner of the business received a conditional discharge, indicating that he had no criminal or moral culpability. The manager received no substantive penalty, no fine and no costs, merely a very short suspended sentence. This speaks for itself, yet another example of the Courts protecting citizens from the incompetence and vindictiveness of FSA.
“It should be recognised that FSA originally raided Farmbox without a shred of credible evidence that the business was involved in substituting horse for beef. It is likely that the FSA senior management who ordered the raid did not even know that the business was cutting up entirely legitimate horse carcases for export. It appears they did not even consult FSA staff who had attended the plant. And yet the same FSA senior management libelled Farmbox on prime time TV with baseless allegations, unsupported by any evidence, that they had supplied minced beef adulterated with horse, which was completely untrue. As a result, the business was needlessly ruined.”
So far, the FSA have not responded to these comments.