An abattoir located on the coast of NSW is facing fines after a conviction determined by their choice to substitute for lamb in several of their food products.
This company, Tolsat PTY, LTD was part of a larger investigation that lasted from 2007 to 2008, of numerous food companies and their claimed lamb meat.
The NSW Food Authority, under suspicion of mislabelling, did a thorough audit of the company and determined that it was replacing lamb meat with cheaper hogget and mutton.
Lamb meat is more expensive and is considered a premium food, which means when people buy the products, they assume they are getting what they paid for. However, in this case, Tolsat was substituting the premium meat to save money on their bottom line all the while continuing to charge the higher prices and label the products as containing genuine lamb.
When the NSW Food Authority did a more thorough investigation of the company, discrepancies began to turn up in numerous food packaging records. It seems that the actual slaughter records didn’t match the information for held livestock, indicating that information was changed to cover up the fact that the lower cost meats were being used. Instead of processing the lamb as indicated on records, the company was processing the older meats while recording different information.
There were 66 charges brought up against Tolsat. The charges included more than 30 for providing false descriptions and failure to comply with meat food safety laws. These two violations are covered in the Food Act of 2003, sections 18(2) and 104 respectively. Additionally, the NSW Food Authority added the company to the Name and Shame Register: a public listing of companies known for serious food violations that directly affect consumers. This register is viewed by millions of businesses and individuals every year.
At this time, Tolsat has yet to admit any fault in the matter and is instead defending their information throughout the prosecution process. The decision did find the company guilty of all 66 counts of food safety violations according to the Downing Centre Court in Sydney. The company has been fined $66,000, which equals $1,000 per violation. In addition, the company will be responsible for paying court and legal fees for the whole process.
The Australian government has very strict laws about labelling for the safety of the consumer. When consumers purchase foods, they should be able to trust that the ingredients label is correct. Because of this, companies like Tolsat will face stiff penalties for purposefully mislabelling products.