News
for the month of August, 2017

The 'catastrophic effect' on former Teesside Aldi supplier fined for 'mouse infested factory' revealed in court

17th of August 2017

Turnover at a dirty factory at the centre of an Aldi biscuit recall has plummeted by more than £5m since a council hygiene probe was launched.

Baketime Ltd was back in court for sentencing on Monday after admitting three food hygiene breaches in connection to its South Bank factory.

 

The business was temporarily closed in March last year leading the supermarket to withdraw 16 types of snacks made by the firm in March 2016.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard that mouse droppings were spotted among food debris on the floor, with fresh and dry faeces discovered on ready to use packaging. A dead mouse was also found.

Now, the company has been ordered to pay £13,800 in fines and more than £6,400 in legal costs by a judge.

But Baketime’s solicitor, Matthew Kerruish-Jones, had pleaded with the court to place the offences in a lower sentencing band to reduce a potential fine - saying the fact that Aldi had ended its contract had had a “catastrophic effect” on the business.

He said none of the recalled products were unsafe or unfit for consumption when tested.

Around 150 members of staff have lost their jobs since a Redcar and Cleveland Council inspection on March 16, 2016, found the filthy conditions at the Imperial Avenue factory.

According to unaudited accounts supplied to the court, the struggling company’s turnover had shrunk from almost £6m to just over £380,000 in a year - leaving it making a loss.

 
Baketime Ltd, Unit 1, South Tees Imperial Food Park, South Bank

Baketime Ltd, Unit 1, South Tees Imperial Food Park, South Bank

Those accounts were viewed ‘sceptically’ by District Judge Kristina Harrison, but she noted that the company had pleaded guilty, had no previous convictions and had cleaned up its act quickly - reopening within six days.

Baketime is pursuing a claim through the civil courts against a company employed to control pests at the site, the court heard.

But Andrew White, on behalf of the council, said that pest control records from 2015 showed problems with pests at the site.

Judge Harrison said: “One big problem I still have with this, is that the company will say ‘well I had pest controllers in and we were paying them a tidy sum every year to deal with this’, whereas the pest controllers will say they carried out everything properly’.

“I can’t determine what’s happening in the civil courts.”

Judge Harrison decided to fine the company £4,600 per offence - which relate to contravening or failing to comply with EU provision concerning food safety and hygiene.

 

Baketime managing director Dr Dissanayake Hitihamu outside court (Image: The Gazette)

Foods recalled by Aldi included its own brand Cheese Thins and Cheese Bakes, cheese, salt and vinegar and smoky bacon flavoured Oddbite packs and Ginger Nuts biscuits.

After the hearing, Baketime managing director Dr Dissanayake Hitihamu provided a statement from the company which read: “This has been an extremely difficult time for the company, cultivating today in this prosecution. Upon legal advice, the company has pleaded guilty to some statutory breaches.

“The company has always tried its level best to ensure high standards of food hygiene, quality of food production as well as heath, safety and welfare of its workforce and other persons that may be affected by its undertakings.”