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Former director of Wisbech’s Baltic Foods sentenced for food safety offences - some items were out of date and mouldy

Baltic Foods was found to have many items that were well past their sell by and best before dates.
Baltic Foods was found to have many items that were well past their sell by and best before dates.

The former director and manager of a Wisbech food store has been given a suspended jail sentence after admitting a string of food safety offences.

Fenland District Council brought a prosecution against Ferhat Aras after he failed to improve food safety standards at Baltic International Food, following inspections by environmental health officers.

Aras, of 2 Granby Street, Littleport, pleaded guilty to eight food safety and hygiene offences and was sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court on March 7.

Prosecution barrister Chris Hopkins told the court that senior environmental health officers from the Council made several visits to the Hill Street store between September 2016 and January 2017, when numerous food safety contraventions were identified, including: Over 130 packs of cooked meats and cheese found with expired ‘use by dates’. Some of the products were weeks out of date and some were mouldy.

Cooked meats which had been identified by the Food Standards Agency as potentially contaminated with listeria were stored on ambient shelves despite clear instruction to store at 0 to 6 degrees centigrade.

No hand washing facilities were provided for staff handling and slicing meats in the delicatessen. Poor standards of cleanliness in delicatessen. No food safety management procedures. Failure to adequately train and supervise staff. Failure to comply with food hygiene improvement notices.

Senior environmental health officers offered advice and guidance to Aras on good hygiene and food safety standards, followed up by formal enforcement notices to improve – all of which were ignored.

Sentencing Aras, the Judge said he considered the breaches to be intentional and said Aras had shown “a flagrant disregard for food safety rules”. He said that level culpability and potential risk to public health met the threshold for a custodial sentence.

However, in mitigation, Aras had pleaded guilty at an early stage in proceedings, had shown remorse for his actions and had no other relevant previous convictions.

Aras was sentenced to four months imprisonment on each of the offences to run concurrently, suspended for 12 months. He was also given 100 hours unpaid community work and ordered to pay the Council’s prosecution costs of £2,439.27.

Commenting on the case, Coun Mike Cornwell, Fenland District Council’s cabinet member for environmental health, said: “These were serious issues which could have led to a food poisoning outbreak had enforcement action not been taken. It is disappointing the defendant did not take the support offered to him on board to avoid the Council having to take legal action.

“The prosecution should hopefully send out a clear message to other food business operators and reassurance to consumers that poor food hygiene and safety standards will not be tolerated.”

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