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The BBC's John Thorne
"No-one knows how many people brought this unfit meat"
 real 56k

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"This scandel could have a huge impact on consumer confidence"
 real 56k

Food Standards Agency, David Statham
"As far as we know, this is a one-off"
 real 56k

Thursday, 21 December, 2000, 21:01 GMT
Contaminated meat scam a 'one-off'
Peter Tantram
Peter Tantram: one of five people due to be sentenced
Health officials are trying to reassure the public after a multi-million pound fraud in which pet food was sold as meat fit for human consumption.

The government's food safety guardian, the Food Standards Agency, said evidence suggested that the scam had been a one-off.

Five men are due to be sentenced on Friday for selling 1,300 tonnes of condemned meat to butchers, supermarkets and restaurants all over the UK.

Containers of smelly, badly-bruised poultry, covered in faecal matter, flies and feathers, were found by officials investigating that case.

The scam is said to have caused an "incalculable risk to human health".

You only have to look at food poisoning outbreaks in hospitals to realise that something like this could kill people

Insp Gary Blinkhorn
The Food Standards Agency's reassurance contradicts Rotherham environmental health officer Lewis Coates, who led his authority's investigation into the pet food scam.

He said there was evidence that the trade in unfit poultry meat had existed since the late 1980s.

"This investigation was potentially only part of a much wider problem," he said.

"As it proceeded officers became aware that similar scams were operating throughout the country.

"Despite what we found, no-one followed up our findings and we feel that a full investigation into the extent of this illegal trade should be undertaken."

National implications

Senior council officers are meeting officials from the Food Standards Agency early in the New Year to discuss the national implications of the case.

Inspector Gary Blinkhorn, of South Yorkshire Police, which investigated the fraud jointly with Rotherham Council, described the pet food case as a "heinous crime".

"I am a police officer but also a family man with children and an elderly mother and I would not want chicken from these people on their plates," said Insp Blinkhorn.

"You only have to look at food poisoning outbreaks in hospitals to realise that something like this could kill people.

"After a five-year investigation which has cost a lot of money, I am extremely pleased with today's three guilty verdicts."

'Unfit for consumption'

A jury at Hull Crown Court found Andrew Boid, 33, of Carlton, Nottinghamshire, Darren Bibby, 29, of Oldcotes, Nottinghamshire, and Peter Tantram, 47, of Ingham, Lincolnshire, guilty of conspiracy to defraud businesses by selling poultry not fit for human consumption.

They had denied the nationwide fraud, which operated between 1993 and 1996 and earned millions of pounds.

Poultry was covered in faecal matter, flies and feathers
Poultry was covered in faecal matter, flies and feathers
Before the trial began in September two men had already pleaded guilty to the fraud.

They were Arnold Smith, 63, of Sheffield, and John McGinty, 48, of Woodsetts, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

All five are due to be sentenced on Friday.

The jury found Timothy Powell, 38, of Hove, East Sussex, not guilty.

The jury failed to reach verdicts on Tantram's wife Louise, 45, Boid's father Clive, 55, of Worksop, and Kevin Wilson, 39, of Cleethorpes, North Lincolnshire, and were directed to find all three not guilty.

The jury heard that Clive and Andrew Boid and Bibby were bosses at Newark-based company Wells By-Products Ltd, which was responsible for processing poultry meat for pet food.

Its main customers were pet food giants Spillers and Pedigree.

The company bought in huge quantities of condemned poultry, which was packaged as pet food and invoiced to Lincoln-based company Cliff Top Pet Foods, run by Peter and Louise Tantram, the court was told.

Salt and slime

The meat was then cleaned up and passed on to a man not on trial, who helped change the product's identity from pet food to normal food, said prosecutor Ben Nolan QC.

The profits made from the operation were enormous and ran into millions of pounds over the three years, Mr Nolan said.

The scam was uncovered when food officials launched an undercover surveillance operation on a company in South Yorkshire.

Large quantities of salt, used to remove slime from the meat and freshen up its appearance, were discovered in addition to the smelly, badly-bruised poultry.

Seized invoice books showed butcher shops, supermarkets and restaurants across the UK were being supplied.

Clive and Andrew Boid and Peter Tantram were also found guilty of conspiracy to sell pet food-grade meat, which was falsely represented as human food quality to Pedigree.

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