Beef burger

A Northern Irish meat supplier implicated in the horsemeat scandal has been fined for putting beef hearts into burgers and mislabelling products as halal.

Freeza Meats – which has always denied wrongdoing in relation to Horsegate and claimed it itself was a victim of horsemeat fraud – pleaded guilty to 12 offences at Newry Magistrates Court today (30 June).

The company was fined a total of £42,500 and ordered to pay over £70,000 in costs.

The case was brought to court by Newry Mourne and Down District Council following a “lengthy investigation” supported by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Northern Ireland.

The court heard that Freeza Meats had supplied burgers containing hearts that were not declared as an ingredient on the label to customers including a “major supermarket retailer”.

The company was also charged with describing products as halal when non-halal ingredients were used, failing to provide information on who it had supplied meat products to and obstructing authorised officers by “knowingly providing false and misleading documentation”.

Director of the FSA in NI, Maria Jennings, said the result was a “victory” for consumers and would send out a “strong message” to any food business that was tempted to commit fraud.

“Newry Mourne and Down District Council has invested significant time and resource into this investigation and this result is testament to their sustained efforts to ensure consumers are not misled through misdescription of food products,” she added.

Under EC Food Regulations, offal cannot be considered meat and must be declared on the label as a separate ingredient.

The Grocer revealed last year that researchers from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in the East Midlands had uncovered evidence of undeclared offal and blood in a number of meat products on sale in high street retailers.

Defra and the FSA said at the time that they were developing tests that could ultimately be used to routinely test for blood and offal.