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Monday, 01 September 2014

Food supplier fined £6,000 for substituting peanuts for almonds

A food supplier has been fined a total of £6,000 after two peanut-free curries from two Cockermouth takeaways ended up with the nut in them.

Euro Foods Group Limited, of South Wales, was found guilty of food adulteration charges at West Cumbria Magistrates Court.

The two-day trial heard that Trading Standards officers visited Fiza Spice and Indian Spice, both on South Street, in January 2011 to carry out spot checks.

They were told by staff that chicken tikka masalas at both establishments did not contain peanuts.

But when the food was taken away for testing, they both did.

Peanuts can cause anaphylactic shock in people with allergies.

Almond powder from both premises was found to consist wholly or mainly of ground peanuts. It had been supplied by Euro Foods Group Limited.

Kawsor Ahmed, owner of Fiza Spice, said he was not aware that any of his dishes contained peanuts until he was told by Trading Standards.

He added that he always ordered almond powder and trusted what was supplied.

The court heard that staff at Indian Spice were also unaware of the problem. The substance used at the takeaways was actually a product called ground nut mix, made from peanuts, which are also called groundnuts.

David Travers QC, defending, asked whether the labelling of the peanut product with “ground nut” as two words could lead to it being mistaken for ground almonds.

But Singh Bhatoa, of P&B Foods Limited which sold the nut mixture to Euro Foods, said almonds were more expensive than peanuts and anyone in the industry would recognise the price difference.

Angela Jones, Trading Standards service manager, said: “Trading Standards are satisfied that this verdict and this case highlights the importance of labelling food correctly.

“Peanuts are a cheaper food to source than almonds, and it is absolutely unacceptable that the almonds were substituted and sent to the takeaway outlets, which were not at fault.

“In the worst case scenario, the actions of Euro Foods Ltd could have been life-threatening.”

Euro Foods Limited was fined £3,000 for each offence and ordered to pay £12,773.33 costs and a £15 surcharge.

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