A Somerset dairy producer has been hit by a fine and slammed for running a “shoddy operation”, after her cheese was shown to consistently contain harmful bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and ecoli.
Frances Wood, a dairy farmer from West Cranmore, near Shepton Mallet, was also prosecuted under the 2013 Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations for failing to keep the dairy clean and in good repair and condition.
Wood was fined a total of £787 for the two offences and £6,000 in prosecution costs was awarded to Mendip District Council at Yeovil Magistrates’ Court on April 20. She had pleaded guilty to the charges at an earlier hearing.
The district judge also imposed a hygiene prohibition notice, stopping Wood from managing any cheese production or processing business in the future.
The court heard that through her company, Alham Wood Cheeses, Wood had been making cheese – mostly buffalo mozzarella and other white cheeses – at her premises before selling them on to pizza restaurants outside of Mendip and at London farmers’ markets.
Environmental Health team
The council’s Environmental Health team had previously worked with Wood to improve her product.
However, when Wood failed to take the necessary steps to make the cheese safe, she was served with formal notices requiring her to cease all cheese production.
At the hearing, Mendip Council produced results that showed listeria, salmonella and ecoli that had been consistently found in samples.
It also showed reports and photographs of conditions at the premises observed by council and police officers, and reports of similar conditions at a stall in London’s Camden Market.
In making his judgement, the judge called Mrs Wood’s business “a shoddy operation” that was “rather amateurish”.
‘Carrying on taking risks’
He said Mrs Wood had been “carrying on taking risks when she shouldn’t have” and stated that cheese was “a highrisk product and, therefore, higher standards of diligence were required”.
Stuart Cave, corporate manager for services and corporate finance at the council, said: “I’m delighted that after so much work by council officers the judge agreed that Mrs Wood should no longer be involved in any cheese production or processing business.
“Despite repeated attempts by the council’s environmental health officers to work with Mrs Wood to ensure she produced a good quality, safe product, she continued to produce cheeses that posed a danger to public health.
“Prosecution is always a last resort, but we will not hesitate to take legal action against food manufacturers who do not take their responsibilities seriously and repeatedly put public health at risk.”
Listeria was described by the Food Standards Agency as “one of the most lethal of all food pathogens”. Around a third of listeria infection cases are fatal.