A Nelson butcher who processed home-killed sheep at his Russell St shop to boost business after a huge downturn following the December floods and landslips has been fined $2000.
Gary McQuillan, 53, admitted in Nelson District Court this week a charge in relation to processing home kill brought to the butcher shop when he was not registered to provide that service.
The charge was brought by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. In order for both home-killed and regulated-meat product to be processed in the same place, the operator must be listed as a home-kill service provider and the premises must operate under a risk-management programme registered with MAF, department lawyer Megan Alexanis said.
The rules exist to protect the public from potential harm caused by the possibility of home-killed meat contaminating other foods. Food safety depends on how it is processed, stored and handled and whether the raw material is suitable at harvest.
Ms Alexanis said home-killed meat, which carried a risk of diseases such as TB and salmonella, should not touch other meat the public would be consuming.
She said that on February 23 this year a Nelson City Council environment health officer and a Nelson Marlborough District Health Board health-protection officer carried out a routine inspection of Butcher Boys premises for re-registration purposes.
Among other things they saw were six hogget carcasses in the chiller without any inspection marks or labels visible. McQuillan told the inspectors he had bought the meat from Westmeats Nelson, a meat distributor, but inquiries revealed the carcasses had not been bought from there but were home-killed product brought to the butchery for processing.
The court heard that McQuillan processed the meat and returned it to the owner for a fee of $120.
Defence lawyer Brett Daniel-Smith said McQuillan has been a butcher in Nelson since 2001. He was preparing for the traditionally busy pre-Christmas business period when the flooding that caused major landslips in Nelson led to the evacuation of premises near his. That and a downturn in traffic in the area led to a decline in business.
"He was well aware he should not have been processing meat unless it was from an authorised organisation.
"He got $120 for butchering six carcasses – that's the extent of his criminality. He was desperate for money," Mr Daniel-Smith said.
He said McQuillan kept the carcasses in a separate chiller on the premises, and while he acknowledged that the practice meant there was potential for disease to occur, there was no suggestion it had.
Mr Daniel-Smith said it was a "one-off thing", and that McQuillan had since made an effort to get a dual processor's licence.
Judge John Clapham explained the maximum penalty for such an offence was $75,000, which was an indication of its seriousness.
"For hygiene reasons, home kill has to be kept quite separate from processing other meat.
"The defendant was aware of that but provided misleading information in respect of the six carcasses, which also has an adverse effect on those who comply with the rules," Judge Clapham said.
The court heard compliance costs were about $3500.
McQuillan said outside the court that turnover during Christmas and New Year was down between $30,000 and $40,000 because of the slips which closed much of the area around the waterfront.
"They had a serious impact on my business and it was the reason I took on extra work.
"I was battling to pay rent and electricity, and I guess it was just Murphy's Law," McQuillan said. He said he would not be processing home kill again.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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