A Monkton couple openly sold crab meat to restaurants and food outlets throughout South Wales knowing that it was infected by up to 30 times the legal level of listeria.
Colin Brown, 61, and his wife Donna, 40, bought the fresh crab meat from fishermen at Milford Haven docks before commencing their processing operation from their business at Shore Seafoods in Pembroke.
But visits by Pembrokeshire County Council’s food hygiene inspectors discovered that the produce they were selling was unfit for consumption.
The Browns were failing to protect the meat from contamination, they failed to carry out urgent remedial action at their premises and they continued trading, despite being prevented from doing so by the local authority.
Pembrokeshire County Council’s food hygiene department first became aware of their failings in 2020.
The premises were visited on numerous occasions in an effort to improve the methods in which Colin and Donna Brown, of India Row, Monkton, were processing the crab meat.
But the Browns chose to play what Judge Geraint Walters described as ‘a cat and mouse operation’.’
The inspectors identified processing issues that led to the meat becoming affected by listeria. The defendants were made aware of these findings but they continued to ignore the authority’s requests to address the problem or to cease trading.
They continued to sell their crab meat to restaurants and food suppliers throughout south Wales, knowing that it was carrying listeria.
“They were served various notices to stop trading or to improve the way in which they were processing the crab meat but they were ignored,” said counsel Lee Reynold, KC, for the Crown when the defendants appeared before Swansea Crown Court today (Friday) for sentencing.
“Despite having told the local authority that they were not trading, they continued to supply meat to businesses in the South Wales area.”
The Crown said that some of the crab meat found by the inspectors contained 30 times the legal levels of listeria.
“This was a positive deception,” said the Crown.
However the defence counsel claimed the deception was the result of a catalogue of tragedies which had affected the Browns between 2018 and 2019.
“Prior to that, the business had been run for 42 years by Colin Brown’s father,” stated defence counsel Mr Dyfed Thomas, KC.
“Colin took over in 1990 having worked there all his life, but 2018 saw the beginning of a very difficult time for them.”
Their daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and tragically passed away at the age of 32, shortly followed by the death of Colin Brown’s father. His mother then began suffering from dementia and was forced to come and live with Colin and Donna Brown. And then Donna Brown was diagnosed with Behcet’s Disease.
“This was not a business that was set up to be run illegally,” said Mr Thomas. “It was the result of their personal difficulties and health issues.”
Colin and Donna Brown both admitted four charges relating to the non-compliance of food hygiene legislation.
Imposing sentence, Judge Geraint Walkters described the incident as ‘highly unattractive’.
“Food hygiene isn’t a trivial matter,” he said.
“Its purpose is to protect public health in all forms. But you were processing crab meat and the levels of listeria were astonishingly high. There is also evidence that some people developed the condition which was then traced back to products sold by you.”
Colin Brown was sentenced to nine months in prison suspended for two years. He must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Donna Brown was sentenced to six months in custody, suspended for two years. She must also complete 15 rehabilitation requirement activity days.
Both were made subject to an indefinite hygiene prohibition order which prevents them from being involved in the participation of the management of food on any commercial premises.