South Norfolk slaughterhouse takes Food Standards Agency to court over suspension of licence

The site of Norfolk Meat Traders at the Moor, Banham. Picture: Archant

The site of Norfolk Meat Traders at the Moor, Banham. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A south Norfolk abattoir is challenging the decision of the food safety regulator to revoke its licence to slaughter animals.

Norfolk Meat Traders took the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to court after it did not extend its conditional approval to kill livestock.

The refusal stems from an inspection which took place on April 10 where an FSA inspector raised concerns about animal welfare and an allegation that Norfolk Meat Traders had illegally slaughtered horses.

At a hearing held at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court on Thursday May 18, district judge Nick Watson heard from witnesses and legal representatives from the food business operator and the government regulator.

The allegation stems from an incident on March 31 at the Moor Farm Abattoir in Banham where 12 horses were slaughtered.

Norfolk Meat Traders was granted a licence to slaughter cows, calves, sheep and goats on February 24 at the premises it shares with Zoo Food People, who hold a licence to kill horses.

An official from the FSA raised concerns with her superiors after a conversation she had with a Norfolk Meat Traders director Deborah Wilson earlier that week about transferring the horse slaughtering licence of Zoo Food People to Norfolk Meat Traders.

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The FSA claims the horses were slaughtered while the abattoir was operating as Miss Wilson's firm, which did not have a licence to kill horses, rather than Stephen Toth's which did.

The horse carcasses had been labelled as coming from Zoo Food People, but the FSA believes they were actually slaughtered under the authority of the Norfolk Meat Traders.

Mr Toth from Zoo Food People claimed he had no knowledge that the horses were slaughtered on that date, and he was not on the premises.

He said he learnt about the slaughter when the official veterinarian for the abattoir sent him a text about the results of a routine lab test of the meat.

As a result the meat was then detained, which meant it could not sold and had to be labelled 'not for human consumption'.

Inspectors noted in April hygiene and documentation at the abattoir was 'very good'.

The appeal hearing is due to conclude on May 19.