A Pembrokeshire catering company has been fined a total of £2,550 after three people became ill from eating mackerel at Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven.

DM Catering (Pembs) Ltd was fined by Haverfordwest magistrates on Friday (25th September) after pleading guilty to the offence of storing foods likely to support the growth of pathogenic micro-organisms or the formation of toxins at a temperature above 8 degrees Celsius.

The prosecution was brought by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Environmental Health department.

The court heard that on 29th July 2019, three people who had eaten mackerel at the Milford Marina restaurant all became unwell with gastrointestinal symptoms and headache. One member of the party also experienced a skin rash, short, rapid breathing, a rapid pulse and temperature.

Another person’s symptoms had begun before leaving the restaurant, and uneaten food had been taken home by the party to finish later. That sample of mackerel was collected, and sent by Pembrokeshire County Council for testing by the Public Analyst.

A visit to Martha’s Vineyard by an Environmental Health Officer was subsequently carried out and foods in some of the fridges in the kitchen were found to be operating at too high a temperature. The core temperature of some foods within the fridges was as high as 22 degrees Celsius.

Although temperature checks had been carried out by the business, the method of obtaining these results – reading the dial on the refrigerator rather than using an independent temperature probe had proven to be extremely inaccurate.

Any high-risk foods stored above 8 degrees Celsius could have increased harmful levels of pathogenic microorganisms, including bacteria such as listeria and even toxins in scombroid fish such as mackerel. All affected food was disposed of, and an engineer called to repair and replace the refrigerated units.

Analysis of the sample of mackerel sent for testing was found to be unfit for human consumption.

Magistrates fined DM Catering (Pembs) Ltd a total of £500, which combined with costs and a victim surcharge fee came to a total of £2,550.

The business was co-operative throughout the investigation by Pembrokeshire County Council, implementing better monitoring practices to ensure that all foods are stored at 8 degrees Celsius or less.

Following the prosecution, Cllr Cris Tomos, Cabinet Member for Environment, Public Protection and Welsh Language, said:

“This case was important in showing that food businesses must be extremely diligent when storing foods that pose a risk of supporting the growth of bacteria and toxins.

“It is of the utmost importance to ensure that the temperature of such foods is managed effectively and that the temperature monitoring equipment relied upon, is accurate.”

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