This morning 22nd March 2001, between 8am and 10am, a co-ordinated operation began and warrants were executed at a number of locations across the country. The operation is being led by Derbyshire Constabulary, working with Amber Valley Borough Council and the Food Standards Agency, supported by other local authorities and the Meat Hygiene Service.
Today's action is in connection with allegations of poultry meat unfit for human consumption coming back onto the market as food fit for people to eat. It is the latest phase of a multi-agency operation that has been underway for four months, involving over 100 police officers as well as around 50 local authority environmental health officers and Meat Hygiene Service staff around the country.
The operation to date has progressed within the shortest possible timespan. It is continuing and is expecting to take some considerable time to complete.
A pet food processing plant, Denby Poultry Products, near Ripley, Derbyshire is one of the premises where a warrant has been executed. It is registered by MAFF under the Animal By Products Order 1999 to receive waste from poultry slaughterhouses for use in pet food.
There have also been warrants executed on other premises allegedly involved in the chain of production, distribution and sale of these products, including outlets that allegedly distribute and sell the products back onto the market as food fit for human consumption.
At this stage of the investigation limited operational information is available:
Chief Superintendent Fran Muldoon, Derbyshire Constabulary, said:
"Today's actions are the culmination of four months of observations and operations. We have worked closely with Amber Valley Borough Council. The Food Standards Agency and other agencies have also been involved and this has been an excellent example of multi-agency working. The arrests we have made today do not mean the operation is complete. This is the initial stage of the operation. It is our intention that the investigation will try to trace the distribution chain of the poultry meat that is alleged to have been introduced into the human food chain and bring the operation to a conclusion."
Peter Carney, Chief Executive of Amber Valley Borough Council, added:
"MAFF have exercised their statutory powers to suspend the plant's registration. We and other agencies involved are working to ensure that any poultry products which are unfit for human consumption are seized and prevented from reaching the public. The council is taking necessary legal action today to have these products destroyed. We are please with the way in which the operation is progressing. I would like to pay tribute to the Council staff who have been working on this operation, virtually around the clock. Their professionalism and dedication to this complex investigation has been vital to enable us to get to the point we have reached today. I would also like to thank all the agencies involved in this case. Our role as the local authority is to monitor food hygiene standards, and to give advice to retail, manufacturing and catering businesses in Amber Valley. We never hesitate to take strong enforcement action."
David Statham, Director of Enforcement and Food Standards of the Food Standards Agency, said:
"The alleged activities that led to today's action show the need for vigilance and tough action to protect the consumer, and the need for vigorous enforcement of the rules governing the production and distribution of food. If these are breached, or indeed if they prove inadequate, the Agency and its partners will act to protect the consumer. The FSA has stepped up its work with enforcement authorities to improve detection and prosecution in cases where there is a potential risk to public health. The Agency is investigating what further measures may be necessary to prevent any cases of unfit meat entering the food chain. We cannot be sure what public health risks there may have been from this alleged trade. There are specific controls on meat to ensure it is fit for human consumption. When these controls are not in place there is an increased risk of food poisoning. Today's action to apply to seize the meat will protect the public from any further risks of this meat entering the food chain. The public needs protection where it is alleed that food unfit for human consumption is finding its way back into the human food chain by whatever means. If anyone has any information indicating that such things are happening, they should contact the Polic, their local authority or the Food Standards Agency."