Donnington butcher banned from running shop - but he can still work there

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A man has been banned from running a butcher’s shop in Donnington and ordered to pay £10,000 after having a ‘cavalier attitude’ to food hygiene practices - but a loophole in the law means he can still work there.

James Congdon of James and Son was visited by district council environmental health officers 29 times, but he decided to ignore their advice about his practices and the high-risk of food contamination.

An ‘unsatisfactory level’ of bacteria was found at the butchers, including E.coli on a scale brush used to clean the sink.

Congdon was given a prohibition order to stop him from participating in the management of any food business – but it does not stop him from working at one.

Environmental health manager at Chichester District Council Ian Brightmore admitted the orders were a bit of a ‘grey area’. “It is quite wide-ranging what the term ‘management’ means,” he said.

“Anybody who is prohibited from managing a food business, if they wanted to continue working there, would have to be very careful they are in no way included in the management of the business.

“This may expand to things like the processing of the taxes, paying the wages, even to who paints the front of the shop.

“In a business where a person is one of only two people working there, it would be very difficult not to break the order.”

Mr Brightmore said if Congdon decided to work at any food business, officers would need to visit him and ask what roles he was carrying out.

The prohibition order is only the third one the council has given in the past 20 years. After six months Congdon can apply to the courts to have the order removed.

Mr Brightmore added: “We do give out orders with much regret because we are taking away someone’s livelihood.”

Congdon was served the prohibition order by the council after he was sentenced at Chichester Crown Court on Friday, June 3.

The offences start from council visits in October 2009. They said the premises were not cleaned correctly, the vacuum packaging machine was used for both raw and ready-to-eat food, use-by dates were not considered, the defendant had falsified records, packaging materials were kept in inappropriate areas and the defendant was not wearing the appropriate clothing.

A food prohibition notice was issued in November 2009 to stop Congdon from preparing and handling, open and unwrapped ready-to-eat foods, but this was breached. Congdon admitted to four counts of bad food-hygiene practices. Judge R Fraser said the current crisis with E.coli was a ‘timely reminder’ of the dangers of bad food-hygiene practices. He said Congdon had a ‘cavalier attitude’ towards food hygiene practices.

He added: “It is absolutely clear you can’t be relied upon in any food business. I say this carefully, because I know how significantly this will impact your life.”

Congdon was given two months to pay a £2,000 fine. If he does not pay, he will get 40 days’ imprisonment. He has six months to pay the £8,000 in court costs.