A FORMER poultry slaughterhouse owner from Newtownbutler has been jailed for four months after he was convicted of selling food that was unsafe to eat in what was described as ‘harrowing’ scenes at the slaughterhouse premises.
People in Fermanagh may have eaten the turkey produced at the slaughterhouse in Newtownbutler after it was supplied to a number of shops in the area.
30-year-old Nigel Desmond Wilson, of Crom Road, Corenshin, returned from Australia two weeks ago where he has lived since his conviction in 2011.
Wilson was convicted of nine offences in relation to breaches of Food Hygiene Regulations after the case was brought by the Food Standards Agency three years ago.
Fermanagh Court heard that when Department of Agriculture and Rural Development officials visited the plant they found decaying animal by-products infested with maggots and blood stains on the floor, utensils and clothing and no cleaning process was in operation.
The chill area wasn’t working properly and there was a faulty thermostat found on a chill cabinet.
There was improper storage as well as bins filled with turkey carcasses. They also discovered drains full of debris and feathers and said there was a nauseating stale smell.
The court heard that turkey from Wilson’s slaughterhouse that hadn’t been inspected was distributed to the Spar shop in Newtownbutler and Tenderlean Meats in Derrylin.
A tenth charge was dismissed which alleged that the food was not adequately labelled to facilitate its tractability.
The offences included failing to keep the premises clean and adequately refrigerated for the handling and storage of meat, and failing to remove waste as quickly as possible from rooms were food was stored.
A prosecutor explained that Wilson set up his Corsenshin Farm poultry business in 2008 and applied to use the premises to slaughter turkeys.
Officials made a number of visits to the factory and in March 2009 Wilson was given conditional approval. This was reviewed in June 2009 when Wilson said was now trading as Upper Erne Lakes Poultry at the same address on the Crom Road.
It wasn’t until January 2012 that full approval was denied, and Wilson lodged an appeal, however he continued production.
The court was told that when the premises were inspected on October 2010, to see if they were still being used for the processing or distribution of food, officials found turkey carcasses and evidence that slaughter had been carried out.
On November 1, 2010, health officials were informed of the breaches and Wilson was ordered to cease productions at his slaughterhouse.
Wilson’s defence solicitor told the court that his client moved to Australia in November 2011.
“He found out that the summons had been served in a local paper when he was told by a family member.
“He grew up on a farm and has been operating a licence since he was 10. He went to an agriculture college and decided to set up his own business in 2008. There were no incidents during the first two years but after the FSA got involved he did cease production after appeal.
“He was working in the oil and gas industry while he was in Darwin in Australia.”
District Judge Nigel Broderick questioned why he did return from Australia sooner to face the charges. The defence solicitor claimed that his client didn’t become aware of the court proceedings as he was dealing with the FSA.
While he admits the charges, Wilson denied that the products made it into local shops. The court also heard that Wilson hoped to retain his residency in Australia so he could travel home to visit his family.
Judge Broderick stated: “Every customer is entitled to know the product they buy is fit for human consumption. This is a harrowing picture of what was going on in your premises in relation to the slaughter of the animals.
“What aggravates this matter is that they were allowed to be taken to shops for human consumption. You then went to Australia and I am satisfied you did so in knowing these were outstanding. I suspect that you realised you couldn’t return to visit family and friends while this was hanging over your head.”
Wilson was fined £1,000 for each of the eight charges, was sentenced to four months in prison and a hygiene prohibition order was granted preventing Wilson from running a similar poultry business.
He is appealing the sentence and was released on his own bail of £500. Wilson was ordered to hand in his passport and report to Lisnaskea Police Station three times a week.
Michael Jackson, Head of Food Safety and Operations at the FSA said: “We took this case against Mr Wilson because of serious breaches of food safety regulations in his poultry slaughter business. The Food Standards Agency in Northern welcomes this sentencing today which we hope sends a strong message to those who try to operate food businesses outside the law.
“This was a joint agency approach, with officers from DARD investigating the offences on our behalf.
“Thanks to their diligence, we were able to bring this prosecution and stop the illegal processing of poultry at Mr Wilson’s business.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere