A FOOD business with a warehouse in Brentwood Road, Bulphan, has been fined after being prosecuted by Thurrock Council.
Proceedings were brought against Fox Foods (UK) Ltd of Ilford, as well as the food business operator for the company — 53-year-old Alex Maxwell of Chingford and general Manager, Ronald Wenn, 63 of Heath Park, Romford.
Between them, they admitted 14 offences when they appeared before Basildon Magistrates on 24 November.
Environmental Health officers from the council’s food safety and standards team made an unannounced inspection of the company’s premises at Wick Place Industrial Estate, Brentwood Road, on 8 March this year.
The court heard that the move followed a complaint regarding the re-labelling of jam. Officers found three members of Fox Foods staff using acetone and scouring pads to remove best-before dates and lot numbers from food products which were then being relabelled with fictitious best before dates.
The warehouse was full and checks made on a number of other goods highlighted concerns due to scratch marks to the surface of lids and packaging.
A detailed investigation took place over the following months with a number of manufacturers in the UK and Ireland to try and gather further information about the source of the goods, together with information about relabeling or changing information.
But the council was not able to find where a large number of the stock items came from as the original dates and traceable information had been removed.
The court was told that changes to traceability information and a lack of clear records could and would prevent consumers or retailers identifying products that were recalled over safety concerns and therefore such actions placed consumers at risk.
Information about individual food items and copy invoices provided by the company showed that much of the stock the officers were concerned about was bought from Dale Farm, without proper details of the seller.
Checks with manufacturers revealed that no written authorisation had been granted to change the dates on a number of products which were altered.
Fox Foods (UK) Ltd admitted one offence of failing to identify suppliers and have in place proper systems for which it received a £2,500 fine; one offence of failing to register the food establishment with the appropriate competent authority, Thurrock Council, for which it received a £2,500 fine; and five offences of removing or altering “durability indicators” on food products without written authorisation of the manufacturer for which it was fined £1,000 for each offence.
Maxwell admitted one offence of failing, as the Food Business Operator, to identify suppliers and have in place proper systems and one offence of failing, as the Food Business Operator, to register the food establishment with the appropriate competent authority, Thurrock Council. He was fined £500 per offence.
Wenn, as the person responsible for dealing with obtaining written authorisations from manufacturers, admitted he had failed to obtain written authorisations in respect of the products found by council officers. He admitted guilt to the five food relabeling offences and was fined £200 per offence.
In addition to the fines, all parties were ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge and Fox Foods (UK) Ltd was ordered to pay a further £2,717.48 to Thurrock Council in costs.