Poultry supplier pleads guilty to animal health and food safety offences

A partner in Mathison (Farmers) Leven, which commercially rears and slaughters poultry at Southfield Farm, East Yorkshire, has been fined after appearing at Beverley Magistrates Court.

Daniel Mathison, 49, pleaded guilty to four offences relating to an Avian Influenza (bird flu) outbreak on his premises and to operating a slaughterhouse without Food Standards Agency (FSA) approval.

Mathison, whose company supplies meat under the brand Yorkshire Ducks and Geese, was fined £4,000 per offence, and ordered to pay an additional £6,000 towards costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge, totalling £28,000 to be paid within 12 months.

The court heard how, despite nationwide compulsory preventative compulsory measures being in place, officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) found the end of the farm’s duck rearing shed was fully open, and no records of bird deaths had been kept when they visited the farm on 12 April 2023, to investigate a possible Bird Flu outbreak.

Bird Flu was confirmed in the duck flock on 13 April 2023.

Follow-up investigations by officers from Public Protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council found slaughtering and meat production activities had expanded well beyond the permitted limit, above which approval and on-site supervision by the Food Standards Agency is required.

It was also identified there had been a breach of restrictions preventing movement of anything onto or from the premises while waiting for Bird Flu test results. Meat had continued to be supplied to a local restaurant on 13 April 2023.

A further breach of ongoing restrictions imposed to minimise the risk of disease spreading from the farm occurred on 31 May 2023, when old insulation was removed from the premises.

During sentencing, magistrates said these actions could have had wide reaching and serious consequences for other farmers, health and the local community.

Angela Dearing, director of housing, transportation and public protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It is highly likely this Avian Influenza outbreak would not have happened if compulsory housing measures to ensure separation from wild birds had been complied with.

“It is fortunate the outbreak did not spread further when the disease control restrictions were breached.

“In addition to the catastrophic consequences for this business, the measures required to control the outbreak and prevent it spreading further significantly impacted on other local livestock keepers and the community.

“It is vitally important all livestock keepers play their part and adhere to animal disease control regulations, which are in place to protect against potentially devastating effects on their own livestock and businesses, animal and public health, and the economy.”

Aled Edwards, head of field delivery England, Animal and Plant Health Agency, added: “This case demonstrates how our robust enforcement and our effective collaboration with local authorities can bring those guilty of breaches of animal health and welfare legislation to justice.

I hope the sentence will act as a reminder to others of the importance of these legal requirements in minimising the risk of further spread of disease, and the consequences of not adhering to the rules.”