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Food company in court after Carew Market visits

Three family members operating a stall at Carew Market and other sites in South Wales have been sentenced at Swansea Crown Court after admitting to multiple food hygiene offences.

Pembrokeshire County Council and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council  brought cases  against the individuals and their company, Marley Cwmgors Food Limited, following multiple and repeated food hygiene and  labelling  breaches at market stalls trading in Carew and  Resolven and at their base in Cwmgors, Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen.

Robert John Hodges Junior was sentenced to a 12 months prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

His father Robert John Hodges was made the subject of a community order and a 30-day curfew between 9 pm and 6 am and the mother, Judith Hodges, was ordered to carry out 100 hours community service of unpaid work.

The company was also fined what the Judge called “a “notional £3,000.”

All three from Cwmgors were also prohibited from working in the management of a food business.

The court heard that officers from Pembrokeshire County Council’s Public Protection Division visited the stall in Carew Market on 6th August, 2017, following a tip-off from Powys County Council’s Environmental Health department.

The officers discovered that vacuum-packed cheese was being sold on an unrefrigerated stall without necessary controls in place and with incorrect labels.

The business had no satisfactory food safety management system in place and pre-packed cakes on sale were not properly labelled. This meant that any allergenic ingredients were either not being declared or labelled with incorrect allergen information from the wrong cakes.

Formal written warnings were issued to the company together with Improvement Notices for both hygiene and food standards offences.

A revisit was made to Carew Market, by Pembrokeshire Environmental Health staff on 17th September, 2017, to check compliance with the notices, but cakes and cheese were again noted on the stall without correct labelling. Cheese was also again on sale at an ambient temperature with no controls in place to ensure its safety.

The company was also unable to provide full traceability for products on sale during and following any of the visits. It was unclear where the cheese had originally come from, particularly due to the wrong labels being applied to products.

Visits by officers of Neath Port Talbot Borough Council to the company base  in Cwmgors revealed significant non-compliance with food safety legislation, with conditions described in court as “so poor as to pose a risk to life through food poisoning.”

Judge Peter Heywood commented that the premises were absolutely filthy with no hot water supply and food debris and dirt on sinks and hand-contact areas such as light switches  work surfaces and on the floor.

Equipment such as chopping boards and mops were dirty and cobwebs and spiders were present. There was also a slug in the sink. He noted too the appalling condition of the toilet with an excrement-covered bowl.

The Judge went on to say that both local authorities had “bent over backwards to assist” but that the defendants had simply not been honest with them. 

After the hearing, Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services and Housing, Councillor Pat Davies, said “This Authority will not hesitate to take action where serious contraventions of the legislation are discovered by authorised officers”. 

“The result of this case demonstrated the serious and repeated nature of the breaches and spells out a clear message to all businesses for the need to manage food safety and standards effectively.

“This situation was made worse by the lack of action by the food business operators even after being provided with advice, warnings and enforcement notices”.

Councillor Davies also urged any business struggling to understand and apply food safety and standards requirements to contact the Authority’s Public Protection Division which is able to offer information and consultancy visits