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Shellfish company fined for using other companies’ food safety labels

A Falmouth-based shellfish company has been fined after putting food on the market with other companies’  food safety markings. 

On February 10 at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court, Falcatch Limited and the company’s director Thomas Duane were fined a total of £1,516 and ordered to pay £2,900 costs and a £140 victim surcharge. 

Falcatch Ltd and Mr Duane pleaded guilty to a total of four food hygiene offences.  

In November 2019 Port Health Officers based in Falmouth Docks were informed by another local shellfish business that Falcatch Ltd were using identification marks - the oval you see on meat, fish and dairy products - belonging to other local businesses.    

The court heard that a nine-month investigation uncovered that Falcatch Ltd had used three different businesses’ identification marks, including that of a local egg packer.  

Port Health Officers discovered that Falcatch Ltd was putting shellfish on the market with wholesalers in both France and the UK. 

In order to trade in this way, the business should have been subject to approval from the Port Health Authority, after which would it would have been given its own unique identification mark.    

The District Judge said she was concerned about the length of time the breaches had been going on for, as the longer it occurred, the harder it was to trace the products back through the food chain.   

Kingsley Keat, prosecuting on behalf of Cornwall Council, said it was key that any animal products placed on the market only be done so from businesses found to be meeting high standards of hygiene, and only from those businesses who were subsequently issued with such health numbers.   

Apart from meeting hygiene standards, the health numbers allow for the produce to be traced quickly, which is extremely important if, for instance, there was an outbreak of food poisoning.  

During mitigation, the court heard Mr Duane had no previous convictions, had cooperated with the investigation, had entered guilty pleas at the earliest opportunity and had worked constructively with Port Health Officers to ensure that the business was approved.  

The court was told that Mr Duane regretted the incident, took full responsibility and sought not to blame anyone else, but he thought he was passing on the food chain information, therefore was acting within the confines of the law, and he had been partially naïve.  

He also said that Brexit had had an impact on the business.   

Because the offences all occurred out of the same set of facts, the District Judge fined both the company and Mr Duane in respect of one offence each.   

Rob Nolan, Portfolio Holder for Public Protection, said: “The system that approves wholesale businesses to trade in animal products gives confidence to retailers here and abroad that they are buying from premises with high standards of hygiene and traceability.  

“Any attempt to work outside of that system, and pretend that you are within it by using other businesses numbers, can undermine confidence in the system, and is unfair to those businesses that follow the rules before they trade.”