Local meat firm fined

A LOCAL meat producer was fined £7,000 at Aberdeen Sheriff Court last week for two separate incidents in April and May last year, relating to the presence of spinal cord column on meat presented for inspection.

Managing Director of Mathers (Inverurie) Ltd, Michael Mountford was present at the hearing at which the company pleaded guilty.

Mr Mountford said: “We presented the carcasses for inspection and spinal cord matter was found - that is an offence.

“In the second incident, the piece was so small that the four vets on the premises at the time were not sure what the material was, so it had to be sent away for analysis.

“Once the carcass has passed the meat inspection point there is no chance that the product will go out on the bone to the customer. “It is the meat inspectors’ and the vets’ jobs to make sure that there is no spinal column left on the carcass so there is no danger to the public at all, but it’s against the law to present the meat with spinal column to the meat hygiene inspectors.

“No produce with spinal column attached has ever left the premises. There is no danger to the public whatsoever.”

Mr Mountford said that spinal column matter was often so minute that it was difficult to spot. He explained that the company had introduced a further step in the process of meat production by taking on an extra member of staff to hopefully intercept illegal matter before the meat was presented for inspection. He said: “Now there are two people looking for spinal column – if one misses it the other will hopefully find it.”

Speaking about changing laws in food hygiene, Mr Mountford said: “If you go back in time the meat inspector would tell you to remove the spinal cord but that law has changed and now - if they find anything it becomes an offence. Unfortunately the company has to go to court and the sheriff decides what to fine them.

“I think if the Food Standards Agency worked alongside the meat operators, it would make life a lot easier. Human error is always going to be there.”