A FATHER and son who owned a family meat business have been ordered to pay thousands of pounds for multiple food hygiene breaches after their slaughterhouse was found to be significantly unclean.

Anthony Norman, 55, and John Norman, 78, were for a number of years the operators of an abattoir in Bradpole - a slaughterhouse that cut and prepared meat for storage and to be delivered to customers.

Weymouth Magistrates’ Court heard of multiple concerns between 2019 and 2020 about the slaughterhouse’s cleanliness, meat not being stored in a chiller at the right temperature, and condensation dripping onto meat inside a chiller.

Numerous examples included old meat and fat deposits on saws and equipment, a build-up of blood on the slaughterhouse floor, unclean sinks, and an 'overflowing' animal by-product bin.

Prosecuting on behalf of the Food Standards Agency, William Dean, said the errors breached EU rules and Food Standards Agency regulations. The operators were regularly told about any issues by the on-site official veterinarian.

Citing one example, Mr Dean said: “There were numerous instances of uncleanliness around November 2019.

“On November 9, 2019, (the vet) issued a remedial action notice which directed the slaughterhouse and area would need to be thoroughly cleaned before processing.

“At this point, advice and a notice had been given to them. Five days later, she saw meat and the saws were dirty with fat deposits and there were numerous other cleanliness issues.

“The drains were also unclean. She made an entry in the day book.”

On other occasions, there were ‘numerous other findings of significant uncleanliness’, including old meat and fat deposit on unclean equipment, unclean drains, and blood on the slaughterhouse floor.

Mr Dean explained how it was vital that any operating slaughterhouse needed to be thoroughly cleaned before and after production to prevent any cross contamination and spread of any harmful bacteria.

The vet also raised concerns about the state of the abattoir’s chillers, and noted how condensation was ‘dripping onto meat’ and meat was being stored higher than the maximum temperature of seven degrees.

Mr Dean noted that meat stored at a ‘too high temperature’ can cause bacteria to spread and people to fall ill, if consumed.

He said: “On March 10, 2020, the official veterinarian saw that in the storage area, there was sheep carcases over the limit at 19 to 23 degrees. She told them about this.

“Eight days later, she saw pig and sheep carcases over the limit at eight and 14 degrees.

“She noted that the carcases had been dispatched and she was concerned they had been over the degree limit.

“When that meat was returned, it was at 10 degrees.”

Anthony and John Norman, of Mangerton Lane, Bradpole, and Higher Street, Bradpole respectively, pleaded guilty to numerous food hygiene offence charges.

Mitigating, Mark Owens, said the pair have since stepped down from managing the abattoir, with John Norman citing his age and ill health. The abattoir is now being leased to a different company, but still owned by Anthony Norman.

Mr Owens said: “This is a sad story. They are a family (business) that has been operating for 150 years and passed down generations within the family.

“During the operative time between 2019 and 2020, it was being operated by the Normans and I hope they are not upset if I describe it as a 20th century business being run in 21st century.

“They were not able to get the business coming up and in line with current regulations. It’s not to say they didn’t try, they weren’t as successful as they wanted to be.”

Mr Owens said the vet had ‘picked them up on things other official veterinarians had not’ and the Normans ‘struggled’ to understand how certain actions were deemed acceptable before, but not now.

Mr Owens also noted that one of their chillers had broken and they ordered a new chiller from Europe at the expense of £50,000. However due to the pandemic, the delivery was disrupted.

Mr Owens added: “There is a suggestion from the prosecution that my clients made no effort to comply with advice and notices but in fact, that is not the case."

Magistrates ordered both defendants to pay a fine of £1,538 for breaching food safety and hygiene regulations, both to pay costs of £3,500 to Food Standards Agency and a £154 victim surcharge.

After the case, Simon Tunnicliffe, Head of Field Operations at the Food Standards Agency (FSA), said: ‘We take all breaches of hygiene regulations extremely seriously.

“This business was fully aware of hygiene issues at its site, having been notified of numerous failings dating back to early 2019. Despite repeated warnings from the FSA, this business consistently failed to maintain and comply with its own food safety management system, as well as its legal obligations.

“Where businesses disregard food hygiene standards we will act to ensure that public health is protected.”