The court ordered 254 pallets of meat that was intended for human consumption to be destroyed at the expense of Northern Ireland's Euro Freeze. The company may soon be facing criminal proceedings into a scandal that involved illicit repackaging, re-labelling and distribution of meat.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched the investigation in November of last year after closing down Euro Freeze in Northern Ireland. The closure sparked an EU-wide hunt for products that used ingredients originating from thecoldstore.
The closure was ordered after the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development seized a shipment of poultry from China that was destined for Euro Freeze. This shipment was destroyed due to violations of animal health standards.
The FSA had applied for the meat to be condemned as part of the continuing investigation. The magistrates concluded that health marks found at the premises were illicit and that the company was involved in repackaging contrary to the terms of theirlicence.
Yesterday, the FSA also took the opportunity to release their sixth update to the food alert regarding Euro Freeze products. Food alerts are the FSA's way of letting local authorities and consumers know about problems associated with food and any corrective actions that need to be taken.
The food alert says that there may not be any imperative health risks involved with products from Euro Freeze (Ireland), but that companies should quarantine any meat or products that originated from the coldstore to allow for a full inspection by enforcement officers. Inspectors are ordered to detain the meat, if necessary using the Food Safety Act 1990 powers of detention.
The labourious process of tracking down all of the beef, poultry and pork products that Euro Freeze exported from Northern Ireland is ongoing and highlights the need for traceability in the meat packaging industry.
Last year EU laws on traceability were enacted. The law harmonises the bloc's requirements on the traceability of food products, the withdrawal of dangerous products from the market, operator responsibilities and requirements applicable to imports and exports.
The mandatory traceability requirement applies to all food, animal feed, food-producing animals and all types of food chain operators from the farming sector to processing, transport, storage, distribution and retail to the consumer.
All information on the name, address of producer, nature of products and date of transaction must be systematically registered within each operator's traceability system. The law requires the information to be kept for a period of five years and on request, it must immediately be made available to regulators.