Prosecution for dairy linked to E. coli outbreak; fish sellers also sentenced

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A dairy linked to an E. coli outbreak in 2019 in England has been prosecuted for food safety and hygiene offences.

NP and DJ Darwin Ltd, trading as Darwin’s Dairy, pleaded guilty at a virtual magistrate’s court hearing this past week and was sentenced to a £6,000 fine ($8,300), £170 ($235) victim surcharge, and Barnsley Council was awarded £1,000 ($1,400) toward costs.

The company, based in the English town of Barnsley, was charged with failing to implement and maintain procedures based on the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, which help to manage food-related hazards.

Steps to legal action
In late 2019, Public Health England (PHE) noted an increase in E. coli cases in South Yorkshire and found nine of 18 ill people consumed Darwin’s Dairy products before becoming sick.

In November of that year, Darwin’s Dairy recalled all its milk and cream range because the products may not have been effectively pasteurized, meaning they could contain bacteria such as E. coli.

Environmental health officers from Barnsley Council began an investigation, requesting data on production and HACCP records.

Officials tested milk and the processing environment and helped the business to comply with food hygiene and safety legislation. However, based on the company’s lack of available records and failure to provide reasonable due diligence, legal proceedings were started, according to the council.

Charges included failure to carry out effective monitoring at the critical control point of pasteurization of raw milk, not verifying that the HACCP system was working effectively and failing to test milk regularly to ensure safe food production. Other issues were failing to establish limits at critical control points and corrective action procedures.

Julia Burrows, director for public health, said food safety and hygiene regulations are in place to help people avoid illness.

“We have worked with Darwin’s Dairy and Public Health England since 2019 to try and improve processes and ensure legislation was being followed. However, the health of our residents is of the highest importance, and we must do all we can to keep people safe. We continue to work with businesses to help them comply with food safety laws,” she said.

Mobile fish sellers sentenced
In other news, three men who pressured mainly elderly people to buy poor quality fish at high prices have been sentenced at Teesside Crown Court.

Between November 2016 and June 2019, Matthew Dudding, Paul Dudding and Daniel Whitley misled more than 100 elderly and vulnerable consumers.

They targeted vulnerable and older people living in the North of England and the Midlands, including those with serious health conditions, in the belief they were less likely to question the sales or complain. The inquiry was led by the National Trading Standards North East regional investigations team.

Some of the fish was judged to be unfit for human consumption. Food safety management procedures were not followed, including monitoring the temperature for storing fish. One person became ill with vomiting and sickness a few hours after eating fish supplied by the defendants.

Matthew Dudding, 32, pleaded guilty to fraudulent trading, and was sentenced to five years, 11 months and two weeks. Paul Dudding, 60, and Daniel Whitley, 44, pleaded guilty to contravening professional diligence, contrary to consumer protection legislation, and received 13 months each.

Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards, said: “Elderly and vulnerable customers were viewed as soft and easy targets by these unscrupulous fraudsters who have, over a number of years, demonstrated a callous attitude towards their victims. Those who fell for the scam were left feeling angry and ashamed.”

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