Meat distributor rapped for unhygenic plant
8:54am Wednesday 30th October 2013 in Latest News
A MEAT distributor who made £2m supplying chicken to takeaways, including some in Swindon, from a filthy backstreet processing plant in Bristol has walked free from court.
Kamran Ajaib, 28, used Y-front underpants to clean his makeshift butchers, Hamza Poultry Limited, which had just one 'dirty' hand-wash basin.
The chicken was sold to 60 businesses, including takeaway restaurants, kebab shops and supermarkets in the city and as far afield as Swindon, Cardiff and Swansea.
But Ajaib's processing plant had none of the necessary food hygiene approvals or licences to work with meat.
Environmental health officers from Bristol City Council raided the unmarked site on the Fishponds Trading Estate after a customer found metal wire in a piece of takeaway chicken.
Ajaib, a married father-of-two who lives in Bradford, later admitted eight charges of failing to comply with food hygiene regulations, between June 2010 and May 2011.
Co-defendant Hamza Poultry Limited, which is in the process of liquidation and of which Ajaib is the sole director and shareholder, pleaded guilty to the same eight charges.
Judge Michael Roach sentenced Ajaib to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, following a two-day hearing at Bristol Crown Court.
During proceedings, the judge was shown a series of photographs of what confronted council officials who raided Ajaib's premises in May 2011.
"It is obvious from the photographs I had to look at that chicken was being processed in your factory in wholly unsanitary conditions," the judge said.
"Anybody who looks at the photographs will be enormously dismayed by what they see. The premises are deplorably dirty, they are not fit for meat production, cutting or otherwise.
"The floors are filthy, there's no hot water. The opportunity for those working there to wash their hands or equipment was one very dirty sink unit.
"The public have a right to expect that those who deal with food in the way that you did are authorised and producing their food in a sanitary way.
"The dangers to public health by what you did are very evident."
Judge Roach also ordered Ajaib to complete 200 hours of unpaid work in the next 12 months.
The court heard the firm turned over £2,002,672 but Ajaib's available assets were now £51,703 and these must be paid back within six months.
An investigation was launched when a customer of Best Kebab in Bristol contacted authorities after finding a metal wire in a piece of chicken.
Council officials identified Hamza Poultry as the supplier of the meat and raided the site on May 17 that year.
They found a band saw with meat residue around it, toilets opening straight on to the only washing area and brand new pairs of underpants being used as cleaning clothes.
Iain Macdonald, prosecuting, said: "Photographs show cleaning cloths, which were in fact underpants.
"It transpired that the previous occupant of the premises had been a supplier of clothing. It appears these were items left at the premises and subsequently used for cleaning purposes."
Four tonnes of chicken and beef was seized from the premises and Ajaib was arrested, Mr Macdonald said.
The court heard the business later re-opened as a cold store and operated legally, but was closed in 2012 by Ajaib.
Robin Shellard, for Ajaib, said: "The chicken itself was sold from reputable suppliers, this was a bona fide product.
"The product itself was then sold at market rate to regulated restaurants."
He said publicity from previous hearings had a 'devastating effect' on Ajaib and made him a 'laughing stock' due to the y-front rags being used to clean the site.
"The underpants were all new, all clean and they were used as rags," Mr Shellard explained.
Mr Shellard said Ajaib had two children, aged four and two, and helped his wife who had 'very poor' English.
Speaking after the case, John Barrow, principal environmental health officer at Bristol City Council, said Ajaib supplied 60 sites across the country.
"When we looked at his invoice books, we found distribution from Carmarthen in west Wales, right along the M4 corridor down to Newport, Monmouthshire, the Forest of Dean, Stroud, Gloucester, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Swindon and Chippenham," Mr Barrow said.
"It was a huge area, a total of 60 businesses who were being supplied by this company. It was supplying over 20 tonnes of chicken a week.
"The premises was absolutely disgusting and the risk of contamination from the chicken was really, really high."