Robert Stevenson successfully opposes Council’s application for condemnation of foodRobert Stevenson
Robert Stevenson, instructed by Gary Smith at DWF Solicitors, appeared on behalf of a Seafood company, and its owner, in a contest regarding East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s seizure of a large quantity of seafood.
In March 2021, Environmental Health Officers of ERYC seized the seafood from a walk-in freezer at premises operated by the company and made an application pursuant to s.9 of the Food Safety Act 1990 for the food to be condemned on the alleged basis that it failed to comply with food safety requirements.
The council contended that the seafood was of a commercial quantity and was being stored in a freezer which was not under official controls. It was alleged that the seafood was being kept ‘off the books’ for some other commercial enterprise and ought therefore be deemed unsafe. It was further alleged that much of the seafood did not bear proper traceability.
The company had always maintained that the walk-in freezer was owned by the daughter of the owner and that all of the produce within it was for her personal use, in particular for use at her upcoming wedding and other family celebrations that were due to take place in 2021.
The company protestations were ignored by the seizing officers, who also did not accept the validity of the documentation provided, or the account given at the time, about where various items of food had been acquired by the daughter.
However, during the two-day hearing, the company (and the daughter) were ultimately able to account for each item stored in the freezer and demonstrate the unfair approach taken by the council when seizing the goods without proper investigation.
The justices found that the council did not conduct a full and fair investigation, the officers had not been willing to listen to any account being given at the time, and did not give wholly accurate answers during cross-examination.
Accordingly, the justices found in favour of the company, and the daughter, and awarded compensation and costs to be assessed.
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