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Yorkshire businesses fined for potential foot and mouth outbreak


10:41am 24th October 2011
(Updated 8:26am 25th October 2011)

Two North Yorkshire food and waste businesses were fined a total £35,000 on Friday (21 October) at Harrogate Magistrates Court, for transporting and dumping food waste, including meat, on land to feed to sheep and cattle. At the same time another North Yorkshire food company was fined £3,200 for failing to properly complete a waste transfer note.                                                                                                                      

F D Todd & Sons Ltd, of Thirsk Industrial Park, Thirsk was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,781 to the Environment Agency which brought the case.

Coast to Coast Recycling Ltd, of York Road, Tollerton was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,766.

Pro-Pak Foods Ltd, of York Road Industrial Park, Malton was fined £3,200 and ordered to pay costs of £1,848.

The court heard that the transporting and dumping of the waste had the potential to cause another foot and mouth outbreak in a region still recovering from the outbreak ten years ago. It has been illegal to feed proteins (meat) to animals since 1988. Further laws were introduced from 2005 to help prevent the spread of viral diseases such as foot and mouth, swine fever and avian flu as well as bacterial diseases like salmonella and e-coli.

Pro-Pak Foods manufacture ready-meals on their premises at Malton, North Yorkshire. The food waste from the site was taken away by FD Todd & Sons to farms operated by Coast to Coast Recycling Ltd.

A business must hold an environmental permit from the Environment Agency if it wants to accept and keep waste. When waste is transferred from one site to another, a waste transfer notice must be completed.

Holly Webb, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court how environment officers went to Home Farm at Aldwark on 2 March 2011 and saw a Todds lorry leaving. In a nearby field there were around 10 tonnes of mixed food waste which included rice, pasta, noodles, pepperoni and luncheon meat dumped in a corner. Sheep were in the same field grazing.

Officers spoke to Coast to Coast Recycling later that day. They said they thought the food waste was mashed potato and vegetables which was going to be fed to the sheep. The company agreed that what was stored on the land was unsuitable for animal feed.

They said the waste had come from Pro-Pak Foods and was delivered by FD Todd & Sons, as part of a two year agreement. There were no waste transfer notices, because they didn’t believe it was classed as waste because animals consumed it.

When officers spoke to Pro-Pak Foods, they confirmed that FD Todd & Sons took the food waste but believed that it went to landfill. They said their waste would always contain around 10 per cent meat.

FD Todd & Sons said that Pro-Pak Foods had changed what was going into their food waste without informing them.  Differences between waste codes were due to a mistake on the system.

The court was told that the waste transfer note for the movement on 2 March between Pro-Pak Foods and FD Todd & Sons failed to describe the waste accurately, and the European Waste Catalogue Code had been altered.

Coast to Coast Recycling said in interview that FD Todd & Sons would ring up to arrange delivery of ‘animal feed’ for cattle and sheep, and they would re-direct it to the appropriate site. FD Todd & Sons told them that the waste only contained vegetables. When the representative of Coast to Coast Recycling found out that the waste actually contained meat, he said it made him feel ‘pretty sick’.

When FD Todd & Sons were interviewed in April 2011, they said food slop from Pro-Pak Foods was delivered by Coast to Coast Recycling where it was to be composted. They could not confirm that documents had been given to Coast to Coast Recycling, and that they were not aware that the food was used to feed animals.

Pro-Pak Foods in their interview in April said out of date, damaged and re-worked food was disposed of in the slop skip, and this waste stream contained 10-15% meat.  The company stated it had relied heavily on F D Todd & Sons.

Coast to Coast Recycling entered their guilty plea on the basis that it had wrongly assumed waste originated from the manufacture of vegetarian ready meals.  It had only dealt with F D Todd & Son and when the deposit was made they had received no notice so could not prevent the commission of the offence.  It was accepted that the deposit, which was outside their waste use authority, had not been inspected.

Pro-Pak Foods Limited entered their guilty plea on the basis that the offence had been committed naively.  They had contracted with a reputable specialist waste management company and relied upon their care and skill to manage the disposal of food waste, in particular to complete the necessary description and waste code in the transfer note dated 2nd March 2011.

F D Todd & Sons did not enter a basis of plea but offered an unqualified apology for the failings which had given rise to the offences.  Remedial measures had been taken.

Summing up, the magistrates said something went very wrong.  It was for all companies to have knowledge of the legislation and they had a responsibility to comply with it.  At each stage something went wrong.

Speaking after the case, Mike Riby, team leader at the Environment Agency said:

“We were shocked to find this type of activity happening in an area still suffering from the effects of foot and mouth ten years ago. This could have caused another outbreak or spread any number of diseases. We will always use all our powers available to ensure activities like this don’t happen again.”

Statement from Pro-Pak Foods Limited:

Jon Guest, Managing Director of Pro-Pak Foods Limited, said:

“On Friday 21 October, Pro-Pak Foods Limited pleaded guilty to the one offence of failing to ensure that a waste transfer note was completed on 2 March 2011.

“Pro-Pak Foods is a company employing over 300 people, which takes it legal and regulatory obligations very seriously. We were sickened and felt very let down when we found out that our waste contractor had dumped this waste, including food waste, on land where livestock was present and had not, as we understood, sent it for composting.

“We are now fully aware of the joint responsibility of both the waste contractor and ourselves to ensure the correct code is used and would like to reassure the public and our customers that this is a one off incident which has never occurred before, and will not happen again.

“Immediately following the incident we reviewed our systems. We carried out a full risk assessment and also put in place a much more robust system.

“We have also changed our waste management contractor and will ensure we work more closely as a team in the future.”     

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