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Suspended prison sentences for operators of Pembrokeshire based seafood company

Dedfrydau gohiriedig i weithredwyr cwmni bwyd môr o Sir Benfro

Repeated non-compliance with food safety legislation and deliberate breaches of statutory notices served by Environmental Health Officers to protect the health of consumers has resulted in suspended prison sentences for two food business operators in Pembrokeshire.

Colin James Brown and Donna Brown, who run Shores Seafood at 16 India Row in Monkton, Pembroke, were also served with Orders prohibiting them from managing a food business indefinitely.

The sentencing hearing took place at Swansea Crown Court on 24th March 2023, after the couple pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to four offences under the Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006 as amended and the General Food Regulations 2004 as amended relating to:

  • failing to take action to protect food from the risk of contamination
  • placing unsafe food on the market
  • failing to comply with a Remedial Action Notice
  • operating their business without approval after the approval to supply their seafood had been suspended

The prosecution was brought by Pembrokeshire County Council.

The court heard that the offences arose over a period of time when the business, which sold dressed crabs and lobsters, was found to have periodically produced foods contaminated with elevated levels of the harmful bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause severe health effects through a condition called listeriosis, particularly in vulnerable sections of the population.

Despite exhaustive efforts by Council officers to work with the business to identify potential sources of bacterial contamination and ensure the implementation of food safety management arrangements, the County Council suspended their approval to supply their seafood to other businesses in April 2021 as a result of officers’ concerns over the ability of the business to provide safe food.

The Council also served Remedial Action Notices on the business preventing production of food after it became clear that the business was not able to implement the necessary controls on an ongoing basis, and without its continued intervention.

However, in July 2021 the Council became aware that the operators of Shores Seafood were continuing to supply their products to local food premises in Pembrokeshire and further afield, in direct and flagrant breach of the enforcement notices in place on the business.

Environmental Health Officers contacted the businesses supplied as soon as the information came to light and removed the products from the market.

They also discovered evidence that businesses had been supplied with Shores Seafood products a number of times since the business had been prohibited from doing so.

A Product Recall was also issued at this time by the Food Standards Agency as a result of information provided by Pembrokeshire County Council, to ensure that no products remained for sale.

As result of the offences, Colin Brown was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, and also required to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. Donna Brown was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years, with 15 days Rehabilitation Activity Requirement.

Both Colin Brown and Donna Brown were served with Orders prohibiting them from managing a food business indefinitely, which the judge indicated was both necessary and proportionate.

In summing up Judge Walters stated that the facts of the case were ‘hugely unattractive and the Local Authority was engaged in a cat and mouse operation with the business’.

Judge Walters also expressed concern at the high levels of Listeria monocytogenes that had been identified in the business’s products and emphasised that food hygiene is not a trivial matter but there to protect public health.

The actions of the County Council were also praised, as it was recognised that officers had tried at length to seek compliance despite the business illicitly continuing trading.

Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Housing Operations and Regulatory Services, Cllr Michelle Bateman, said: “It is reassuring to see the Court has imposed significant sentences, including the prohibition on managing a food business in the future, on the two people who deliberately continued to run this business despite being subject to notices served by officers of the Council to protect the safety of consumers.

“The offenders had a flagrant disregard for the health of any person who ate their products, despite being aware of the history of contamination of their products with Listeria monocytogenes.

“They also disregarded the prohibitions placed on them by the Authority and had inadequate controls in place to prevent products from being contaminated with this highly concerning bacteria.

“The Public Protection Department of Pembrokeshire County Council is determined to ensure that individuals who commit serious offences or display a blasé approach to complying with food safety and standards requirements are brought to justice.

“The department is also committed to ensuring compliance to protect the health of people eating products produced and sold by Pembrokeshire-based businesses.”

Notes to editors

Note to Editors:

Listeriosis can cause a range of symptoms, which can vary from mild symptoms like a mild flu-like illness in most people to bacteraemia, septicaemia, meningitis, in people who have weakened immune systems.  Those who are pregnant can also suffer from miscarriage and still birth. Listeriosis has a high hospitalisation and fatality rate in those in vulnerable groups compared to other food borne bacterial infections.