A recent prosecution taken by the Welsh Government serves as a timely reminder that compliance with regulatory standards should be a priority for all concerned.
Mr John Edward Morgan is an egg producer registered with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). He has two free range hen houses which have a maximum capacity of 18,000 & 16,000 hens respectively. The eggs produced are sold to Oakland Farm Eggs Ltd.
Over the course of the period 2013 to 2015, a number of inspections were undertaken by Egg Marketing Inspectors which revealed significant discrepancies. The issues included:
- false declarations with regard the number of hens which had been placed in the second hen house;
- significant anomalies surrounding the number of eggs laid on a particular date leading to ‘forwarding’ of the best before dates of the eggs at Oaklands Farm Eggs Ltd;
- the number of additional birds in House Two also exceeded the allowed maximum stocking density permitted by law and the business should not have been marketing the eggs produced from that house as Free Range.
Mr John Edward Morgan and Mr Joseph Morgan appeared before Llandrindod Wells Magistrates Court on Wednesday 16 November 2016.
Joseph Morgan pleaded guilty to a single offence of failing to comply with the Eggs and Chicks (Wales) Regulations 2010, by not recording the laying date of eggs laid from 1 September 2013 to 1 May 2015.
The Magistrates fined him £1,800, awarded a cost contribution of £1,000, with a statutory surcharge of £120, a total financial penalty of £2,920 to be paid within 28 days.
John Edward Morgan pleaded guilty to
- Fraud, by making false representations that his company was producing free range eggs, when they knew that they were contravening regulations governing their egg production as registered egg producer, by exceeding the stocking density of birds under free range status, contrary to Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006, and
- A regulatory offence committed between 1 September 2013 and 1 May 2015, of failing to keep a record of mortality levels of poultry, contrary to Regulation 24 of the Eggs and Chicks (Wales) Regulations 2010.
Owing to the level of offending, Mr. Morgan was committed for sentence to Swansea Crown Court on Wednesday 4th January 2017.
Mr.Morgan was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, in respect of the Fraud Act offence.
In passing sentence, the judge praised a “very thorough investigation” and also praised the evident detail that had gone into the audits of the Morgans’ operation.
The Welsh Government is now considering a Proceeds of Crime Act application in order to recover the unlawful benefit obtained by Mr Morgan’s actions.
It is clear from the sentences imposed that this type of offending will not be dealt with lightly by the Welsh Government or the Courts and sends a strong message that compliance with regulatory standards should be a priority for all concerned.
In Wales, egg marketing inspections are conducted on behalf of the Welsh Government by the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Inspections are undertaken to ensure compliance with all aspects of the EC Egg Marketing Regulations 589/2008.
If you are considering diversifying into egg production, APHA Egg Marketing Inspectors are available to provide guidance on the regulations. To get in touch with your local inspector please call APHA on 03003038268.