A butcher saddled with a hefty fine over hygeine concerns says he was made the victim of a ‘witch-hunt’.
Matthew Mitchell, 38 was fined £8,933 and ordered to pay £470 court costs after he admitted six food safety offences at G and K Mitchell butchers shop on Lytham Road.
Mr Mitchell, of Harrowside, branded the decision ‘victimising’ and a ‘witch hunt’.
He said: “You see muggers, rapists and shoplifters walk away with a slap on the wrist, and then there’s me with a £9,000 fine. It makes me shake my head.”
Blackpool Magistrates heard last week that an inspection of the shop by environmental health officers revealed a piece of cooked ham being kept in temperatures over three times the recommended level.
Mr Mitchell also admitted to failing to keep the shop clean, and failing to have good washing facilities for his staff.
I have not had one complaint in 26 years.
There were risks of cross contamination and legal paperwork was not at the shop at the time of the inspection.
Mr Mitchell said: “The ham was at the wrong temperature and I admit I was wrong in that incident. It had been left to cool overnight and the butcher who was supposed to put it away called in sick and nobody noticed the meat had been left out.
“Other than that I don’t feel I have done anything wrong.
“They did the inspection in November and it took them another seven months to get to court.
“If they thought that I was doing something serious enough to charge me £9,000, why did it take them that long?
“I sold thousands of turkeys over Christmas. Imagine how many people I would have poisoned if I was actually doing something that bad.
“I have worked as a butcher since I was 12-years-old. I have developed this place and invested £40,000 in repairs.
“I have not had one complaint in 26 years.
“If we’re working we’re working, but at the end of the day the place is spotless.”
He added that the hefty fine would put more pressure on an already struggling local business.
He said: “I have spoken to hundreds of butchers who have been very sympathetic because they know it’s not easy these days.
“I feel they are making an example of the only traditional butcher left in South Shore.
“It’s very difficult with the likes of a Aldi and a Tesco Express down the road. There’s more and more competition.
“We’re a high quality butchers shop and that’s what we will always be.
“I source all my cows and sheep locally. We prepare everything from stratch from start to finish. It comes in as a carcass and goes out as a sausage.
“My customers are 100 per cent behind me. I understand the case will have a negative impact on people who don’t know me, but my customers are very loyal.
“We’re not just a faceless business. We socialise with our customers. They’re not just another number to us.
“We have been made out to be a scruffy and dirty shop and nobody can understand it.”
Councillor speaks out on food hygiene standards in Blackpool
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “When you are serving food to the public, you need to uphold the strictest standards about how you prepare, cook and store your produce.
“The food hygiene standards are in place to protect the public and there are no excuses for letting your standards slip below them. In those cases we won’t hesitate to bring forward enforcement action.
“It is worth reiterating that the majority of eateries in Blackpool are kept in a safe, hygienic state however it is always worth checking their individual hygiene ratings before you order so that you can make an informed choice about where to eat. You can check ratings by visiting the food.gov.uk website.”