Belper ice cream manufacturer fined for hygiene offences

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The director of a Belper ice cream making business was left with a bill for over £20,000 after admitting serious hygiene offences when he appeared at Derby Magistrates Court on 24 June.

Mr Malcolm Sutton, aged 68, Director of The Cowhouse Dairy Limited, Postern Lodge Farm, Cowers Lane, Belper, Derbyshire, pleaded guilty to 5 hygiene offences, following a lengthy and intricate investigation by officers of Amber Valley Borough Council’s regulation unit.

The Cowhouse Dairy pasteurised raw milk from Postern Lodge Farm and then processed it into ice cream which was sold to local businesses, including Derbyshire County Council schools.

It is critical to food safety that raw milk is pasteurised to remove bacteria that can cause life threatening illnesses such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, E. coli, Brucella and Listeria.

Following a routine inspection of the business, officers discovered processing records had not been adequately maintained to demonstrate ice cream had been processed in accordance with the Dairies Food Management System and traceability records for ice cream were inaccurate, missing and unreliable.

Thermograph records, which record the temperature and time of the pasteurisation process, were found to be false and looked as though they had been drawn by hand.

In early 2018 notices were served by Amber Valley Borough Council to stop production and detain ice cream until satisfactory microbiological test results and other records were provided to the council’s satisfaction.

Despite ice cream being legally detained at The Cowhouse Dairy, evidence was found that Mr Sutton had continued to sell it through an intermediary firm, to over 70 Derbyshire Schools. With the kind co-operation of the intermediary company this ice cream was recalled from each school and none was consumed.

After considering the serious deficiencies at the dairy, the approval of the premises was removed in March 2018 which required the business to stop making ice cream and ensured it ceased to trade.

On pleading guilty to the 5 offences Mr Sutton was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £12,892 costs.

District Judge Jonathan Taaffe, in his summing up, said it was accepted farming was challenging but that was no excuse not to comply with food safety legislation.

Amber Valley Borough Council portfolio holder for housing and public health, Cllr Tony Holmes, said: “We take our duty to protect the public very seriously and ensuring the food they buy is safe and does not expose them to harm is an important function of the council.

This prosecution, and the sentence imposed by the court, should serve as a warning to other food business operators that we will not hesitate to take action where hygiene requirements are breached and that we are not prepared to compromise public safety in circumstances such as these.”