A Canterbury meat business and its owners have been fined $84,500 for the illegal sale of unregulated homekill meat through butcher shops.
Canterbury Homekill Services Limited (CHK), and owners Noel Womersley (51) and Halena Hitchcock (44) were sentenced in the Christchurch District Court on multiple charges under the Animal Products Act today.
New Zealand Food Safety took the prosecution because the meat had not been through the food safety system’s checks and balances to ensure it was safe.
"Consumers deserve and expect that the meat they buy has come from a legitimate supplier. This means any risks associated with the meat have been identified, managed, and checked to keep people safe,” says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle.
"The majority of food businesses go to significant effort and investment to ensure they keep their customers safe. When food businesses act outside these rules, we take action. There are health risks associated with eating unsafe meat, particularly for vulnerable communities and those with weakened immune systems, so it’s important they do the right thing.
While the company was allowed to process recreationally hunted animals for individuals, it was not permitted to sell the meat.
"The prosecution was the result of a careful investigation, begun in 2020, which found evidence the company was selling unregulated meat, including large quantities of venison through their two retail butcher shops. A close analysis of invoice records revealed discrepancies between the venison sold and purchased, meaning unregulated meat was being sold.
"Mr Womersley is a keen recreational hunter and had a chiller at CHK where he stored meat from hunting trips. Staff at the butcher shop in Rangiora noticed homekill meat was being brought into the shop from CHK because it was vacuum packed and unlabelled with supplier branding or packaging. They reported that offal from CHK came into the butcher shop in large tubs, still with grass on it, was being cleaned and packaged for sale to the public.
"These meats were sold to the public through their retail butchery. Mr Womersley, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, should have known the sale of this meat was illegal," says Mr Arbuckle.
Investigators also found evidence, through studying electronic records, of various other unregulated meat sales, including beef, pork and goat that CHK illegally supplied to customers.
None of the meat was exported.