200 French people became ill over contaminated mussels

MORE than 200 people became ill in France after eating contaminated mussels exported by a West Cork seafood company, a court heard yesterday.

Bantry Bay Mussels, trading as Bantry Bay Seafoods, pleaded guilty to 10 breaches of EU food hygiene regulations at a special sitting, in Bandon, of Bantry District Court.

The company admitted placing contaminated mussels on the market between July 2007 and March 2008, which led to 219 people becoming ill in France.

Other charges included failing to inform the authorities that the mussels could be a danger to human health, making false statements to the authorities, failing to provide a list of customers to whom contaminated mussels were sent and not providing an adequate amount of clean seawater in the food production process.

Judge Leo Malone convicted the company on seven of the charges and took the other three into consideration. He fined the company €4,700 and awarded €50,000 costs to the prosecution.

A further 157 charges were struck out.

The company’s managing director, Paul Connolly, pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to furnish a list of customers who received contaminated mussels to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

This charge was struck out on condition that he pay €1,500 to the charity Cork Cancer by next February.

Micheal O’Mahony, of the SFPA, the authority that enforces seafood legislation in Ireland, told the court that on March 21, 2008, Bantry Bay Seafoods became aware that illnesses had been associated with frozen cooked mussels sold by the company to French company Davigel.

The SFPA was told that 219 people became ill because Bantry Bay Seafoods had inadvertently exported mussels with unsafe levels of biotoxins. The company claimed just Davigel was affected, but this proved not to be the case.

Following an investigation by the SFPA, it came to light that Bantry Bay Seafoods had dispatched mussels that were unsafe on 68 occasions between July 2007 and March 2008.

Mr O’Mahony said SFPA officers were obstructed by the company during their investigation and this led to the contaminated products being on the market longer than they should have been.

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