Consumers were warned condemned meat could still be sold for human consumption despite the conviction of six men who recycled 450 tons of unfit poultry to firms that supplied supermarkets, hospitals and schools.
Peter Roberts: Fled before the trial began
Detectives said the offence, which involves criminals doctoring potentially
diseased waste meat to make it appear healthy, is more profitable than drug
And although fresh efforts have
been made to halt the fraud, the scandal may be continuing across the UK.
Nottingham Crown Court was told on Friday the Crown would not order a retrial
of three men accused of conspiracy to defraud after jurors failed to reach
verdicts and were discharged.
The court had heard that the gang, based at rat-infested and sewage ridden
premises in Denby, butchered one million unfit chickens and turkeys before
selling the meat on for almost £1m profit.
Ringleader Peter Roberts, 68, known as "Maggot Pete", was convicted of the
fraud in his absence on Wednesday after fleeing before the start of the 12-week
Police said a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the former owner of
Denby Poultry Products, of Francis Street, Derby, who is believed to be in
Five other men have already pleaded guilty to the same offence and another was
this week cleared by the jury.
The chickens were not fit for human consumption
The court was told that businesses in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Bury
supplied the Derbyshire produce, in many cases unwittingly, to about 600
customers across the UK.
Ben Nolan QC, prosecuting, said that Denby Poultry bought waste carcasses from
slaughterhouses for about £25 per ton and later sold the meat cuts back into
the human food chain for upwards of £1,500 per ton.
It was licensed only to produce pet food products, but was able to take
advantage of poor enforcement of regulations governing food standards.
"Over the whole period of this alleged conspiracy, very large quantities of
condemned poultry entered the human food chain at significant risk to public
health," said Mr Nolan.
He said that some of the meat was likely to have been contaminated with
bacterial hepatitis, staphylococcus and E.coli-septicaemia.
After the hearing, food safety expert Professor Hugh Pennington, head of the
University of Aberdeen Department of Medical Microbiology, said the poultry
would also have been riddled with salmonella and campylobacter.
"For the elderly, or those in hospital, it is a greater effort for the body's
defence systems to fight off these bugs," said Mr Pennington.
"If the meat wasn't prepared properly and had salmonella present, the effect
can be fatal."
Jurors were earlier told that MK Poultry, a Northampton customer of Denby and
run by two men who have already pleaded guilty, sold chicken to Sainsbury's and
Shippam's for the production of pastes and pates.
B Davies Meats, based in Bury, and run by former Commonwealth Games wrestler
Brian William John Davies, 64, unknowingly sold the unfit poultry as fillet to Kwik Save.
Mr Davies and his son, ex-England schoolboy footballer Brian Paul Davies, 37,
were both cleared of conspiracy by the jury.
A third man David Watson, 38, director of SJ Watson, a food processor in
Milton Keynes, was also cleared after the court heard that his firm had packaged
the poultry and sold at markets, believing it to be healthy food.
Denby van driver Simon Haslam, 39, of Shalfleet Drive, Derby, was also found
not guilty of conspiracy to defraud.
Police, who investigated the racket for two years following an anonymous
tip-off, said that Denby employees were able to collect waste birds at will from
slaughterhouses across the country.
The court also heard that produce was taken to and from the ramshackle
Derbyshire factory in the firm's, unrefrigerated, maggot-infested and
Detective Inspector Neil Perry, who led the police inquiry for Derbyshire
police, said: "The reason why this practice began is simple: the criminals saw
an opportunity to exploit existing loopholes in regulations to put the unfit
meat back into the food chain.
The meat was classed unfit for human consumption
"In a sense, when you look at the figures, this is more profitable than drug
"They were getting their raw material for free or at a low cost and
selling it on for vast profits."
Roberts will be sentenced later this year or early next year with five men who
earlier pleaded guilty to the same offence.
They are: David Lawton, 55, of Beech Avenue, Sandiacre, Derbyshire; Robert
Mattock, 59, of Longley Hall, Norland, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire; George
Allen, 47, of Downall Green Road, Ashton in Makerfield, Greater Manchester; Gary
Drewett, 33, of St Johns Road, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire and Mark Durrant, 31,
of Kingsford, Milton Keynes.