Booths, which owns a chain of supermarkets in the north of England, has been fined after it was found selling meat which was contaminated with listeria bacteria and therefore breached food safety legislation.
A £27,500 penalty was handed down after it admitted ten hygiene, labelling and sell-by date offences at Blackpool Magistrates' Court. It came after the former chairman of Preston North End Football Club, Maurice Lindsay, was left ill in hospital when he ate infected ox tongue which his housekeeper had bought from the Booths store in Lytham.
Listeria bacteria is unlike many other germs as it can grow even in cold temperatures and is only killed by cooking or pasteurisation. If consumed it has an incubation period of between three and 70 days and can result in fever, stiff neck, confusion, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea.
The supermarket branch was investigated by Fylde Council and it was found that there were discrepancies in sell-by dates and labelling on Polish and Italian meats, along with seafood products.
The court was told that the tongue which Mr Lindsay ate was purchased from the deli counter in Lytham and was supplied by East Lancashire-based Wirrall Foods.
Proceedings in the court were followed by the Blackpool Gazette, and it reported prosecutor Michael Lavery as saying: "The firm said the normal policy was to keep wet fish and shellfish for three days, but if it looked alright give it another day. There is a failure to supervise systems and procedures and a failure to heed previous warnings."
Defending Booths, Mark Balysz told the court that his client "sincerely regrets the illness caused to Mr Lindsay. "It’s relationship with the manufacturers of the ox tongue has now been ended. Booths now realise that Wirrall Foods did not observe the required testing regime. It was that firm which broke the regulations and Booths feel badly let down."
District Judge Jeff Brailsford went on to say that anyone retailing food to the public has a "duty to make sure it is safe".
He added that Booths accepts "the systems it operated had been overtaken by changes in the market" and that it has failed to move with the times.