TESCO Ireland has agreed to pay €12,000 charity donation to a community fund after it pleaded guilty to breaches of the food hygiene regulations.
At Kilcock District Court on Friday, 25 May, Judge Desmond Zaidan was told that following a complaint from a member of the public, the Health Services Executive (HSE) investigated conditions in which chickens were sold at Tesco Extra store in Maynooth.
The court heard that there had been five or six complaints before the incident which led to the HSE prosecution. Stand-alone fridges which had caused the problem had now been removed.
At the outset of the case, Tesco was represented by solicitor, Luke Hanahoe, but Judge Zaidan said he was appalled that a senior member of Tesco management was not present and had shown “total disregard for the Court”.
He adjourned briefly for store manager, Cian O’Sullivan, to arrive.
HSE solicitor, Marie Kinsella, said there were three summons, involved unsafe food being placed on the shelves of the store.
Ita Devine, a HSE official, said that they got a call from a woman, Olive Glennon, on 25 March 2011, complaining about chicken, she had bought. It had gone off, having had a “strong foul odour” and was sent to the public laboratory for analysis.
Ms Devine said they had previous complaints about chicken in the same store. “This was the fifth or sixth complaint,” she said, adding they had meetings with Tesco staff.
Mr Hanahoe said he was not aware of this history.
Judge Zaidan said at this point that the prosecution was “the last straw which broke the camel’s back.”
Another HSE witness, Natasha Ramsey, said the tests showed the fridge temperature, was unsatisfactory, with temperatures between 7.9 and 9.2 degrees, instead of a colder 5 degrees.
This was a stand alone fridge and it was not connected to an alarm system which would indicate the temperature was too low.
Ms Devine said that there would be a thorough check on each store about once a year and any individual complaints would be investigated.
Store manager, Cian O’Sullivan, said safety procedures are rigourous at Tesco. He also said the stand-alone type fridges were no no longer used and explained training given to staff, of which there are 253, including 40% full time, at Maynooth. “We took it very very seriously,” he said of the HSE complaint.
Mr Hanahoe said the store could sell 4-500 cases of chickens a week, and up to 6-700, if there was a special offer. That was about 38,500 and the the prosecution should be viewed in that light.
He asked the Probation Act be applied, along with a charitable contribution.
Before a sum was mentioned, Judge Zaidan indicated they total fines would be around €7,000 or half the maximum under the regulations.
A sum of €12,000 was agreed. Initially the HSE sought costs of €1,500 plus VAT on each of the charges but, following discussions, this was agreed at €1,500 plus VAT for all three.
Asked by the Judge about previous convictions, Ms Kinsella said the same company had been convicted for a breach at a Santry store.