A slaughterhouse boss has admitted selling 50 horses for meat without keeping records to show who had bought them.
Peter Boddy, 65, who runs West Yorkshire slaughterhouse in Todmorden, appeared in Southwark Crown Court last week (24 September) and is the first person to plead guilty over last year’s horsemeat scandal (news, 21 February 2013).
The slaughterhouse’s manager, David Moss, was also in court and denied forging an invoice in February 2013 in Mr Boddy’s name concerning the number of horses sold in a transaction.
The pair are both accused of failing to abide by EU meat traceability regulations in relation to horses, which state that the source of meat should be traceable from field to fork.
Both men are also charged with failing to comply with food traceability requirements for more than 17 horse carcasses between July 2012 and February 2013. But they did not enter pleas on this count and intend to apply for the charge to be dismissed.
Mr Boddy and Mr Moss will stand trial next year, date to be confirmed, at Southwark Crown Court.
In a separate case the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been branded as “over zealous” after dropping a case against a north-west abattoir.
Five people have been charged relating to administrative procedures at the Red Lion Abattoir, Cheshire. The abattoir — which was licensed to sell horsemeat in Europe — hit headlines last year after undercover footage showed inhumane practices and cruelty to horses being slaughtered.
Company director Derek Leslie Turner, his wife Valerie Ann Turner and their son, Derek William Turner, were charged with 12 counts of failing to comply with regulations in relation to the slaughter of horses for food consumption. Each faced fines of up to £5,000.
John Young, a former senior manager with the Meat Hygiene Service and the Food standards Agency, and Anne Boyd were charged with intentionally obstructing someone acting in the execution of the Food Hygiene Regulations (2006).
Mr Young was also charged with allowing, causing or permitting a horse that had a detention notice served on it to be removed from the premises.
As H&H went to the press the FSA had confirmed that it was abandoning the prosecution and was going to do so formally at a hearing before Chester Crown Court on Wednesday (1 October).
Agricultural lawyer David Kirwan of Kirwans, who represented John Young and Derek Turner junior, said that the FSA had responded to the horsemeat scandal with “undue haste”.
“They got it wrong in this case, with a deeply flawed, unsustainable prosecution in the name of public health,” Mr Kirwan added. “This case had nothing to do with horsemeat ending up on British dinner tables.”
“This over zealous and bungling FSA investigation highlights how the food regulatory body has little grasp of legislation or the issues facing the farming industry — yet at times it is gung-ho with enforcement and prosecution.
“The European Union legislation was misused and misinterpreted by the FSA, as we were confident of establishing in court.”
Last month the European Union (EU) Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health announced changes to bolster equine identification across Europe to prevent another horsemeat scandal (news, 25 September). Under the new regulations it will be compulsory for all horses to be registered on a European-wide equine database.
However, despite the changes, an industry source warned H&H that food fraud was still a serious problem.
“There is a strong chance that there is still a lot of horsemeat around,” the source said.
“As soon as the scandal erupted, it [the meat] would have been hidden in a cold store. There is every chance that people will now be trying to reintroduce it into the supply chain.”
This news story was first published in H&H magazine (2 October 2014)