Beef load ‘damaged in abattoir not transit’

A large quantity of beef was contaminated with faeces and other dirt in a Kerry abattoir before it was shipped out to a customer, a judge ruled yesterday.

Michael Sheahan, of Ring of Kerry Meats, in Glenbeigh, alleged at Limerick Circuit Court that 50 carcases were contaminated while going from his abattoir in a refrigerated trailer and claimed damages of €36,578 against Barna Transport, Newcastle West, Limerick.

Dismissing the claim, Judge Karen Fergus said she is satisfied the contamination occurred in the plaintiff’s abattoir before it was placed in the defendant’s container truck.

She said the consignment was the second sent by Ring of Kerry Meats to Branagan’s meat processors in Dublin.

The first consignment, brought by another transport company a week earlier, was also found to have faecal contamination, rail dust and oil, she said. As a result, it took three hours to clean and trim at the meat processors.

Judge Fergus said: “I am satisfied that the consignment, the subject of these proceedings, that was rejected by Branagans was dirty and that it included faecal contamination. I am also satisfied that it was in a similar condition to the first consignment sent by the plaintiffs.

"I am satisfied that the meat was contaminated to an extent that was over and above what might be expected to happen during transport and this occurred in the plaintiff’s premises.”

She awarded Barna Transport costs.

During a day-long hearing, Mr Sheahan said he contacted Barna Transport to bring meat to Branagan’s in February 2013.

A total of 50 carcases were placed in the lorry trailer which left for Branagan’s. When the meat arrived at Branagan’s it was rejected as faecal matter, oil, and pieces of metal shards had contaminated the consignment.

Veterinary surgeon Frank O’Leary said he inspects abattoirs on behalf of Food Safety Ireland and Kerry County Council to ensure carcass meat is fit for human consumption.

On February 8, 2013, he inspected 38 beef carcases at the plant and some days later he examined a further 19 carcases. Of the 57 carcases he inspected, 50 were in the consignment transported to Branagan’s and they were passed fit for human consumption by him. His inspections were not carried out on the day the meat left the plant in Glenbeigh.

He was subsequently informed by a colleague that the meat had been rejected by Branagan’s and he was asked by Mr Sheehan in a phone call if he had seen any contamination of the meat and he said he had not.

Kerry county veterinary officer Patrick Fenton said he was very concerned upon learning the meat had been rejected by Branagan’s, as this would reflect on them as vets and professionals. He arranged to meet Frank O’Leary at the Glenbeigh plant where the lorry with the meat had arrived back from Branagan’s.

On inspecting the trailer, he found grease on rollers and a lot of oil contamination on the carcases. The only place this oil could have come from was the rollers.

In evidence for Barna Transport, Tony Shanahan said he drove a refrigerated truck to Glenbeigh to collect the meat. The loading was done by workers at Glenbeigh.

No plastic floor covering was placed by these workers resulting in dirt being brought into the trailer during the loading process. There was no loading bay at the abattoir, which was not normal practice and a fork lift moved through an open area before placing the meat in the trailer.

Moving the meat through an uncovered area on the forklift could lead to contamination and due to his concern, he took pictures of the loading procedure.

Robin Eddy, insurance assessor, said he went to the abattoir some days after the meat had been returned and met Mr Sheahan. He said the general standard of hygiene was not the norm for this type of operation.

He did not get any protective clothing or footwear during his visit which was very unusual. Mr Sheahan wore dirty jeans and a dirty jumper. Meat processor Tony Branagan said they previously had one consignment from Ring of Kerry Meats and had issues including faecal contamination.

They conveyed their dissatisfaction and decided to give Ring of Kerry Meats a second chance.

Labels had also stuck to the meat with dye running on to it. Documents regarding traceability did not arrive with the consignment.

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