A POULTRY farmer in East Yorkshire has been fined over breaches of avian influenza regulations and another relating to slaughterhouse operation.

Daniel Mathison, 49, a partner in Mathison (Farmers) Leven, who commercially rear and slaughter poultry at Southfield Farm, Leven, East Yorkshire, supplying the meat under the brand Yorkshire Ducks and Geese, appeared at Beverley Magistrates Court on Wednesday, 31 January, in relation to animal health and food safety offences.

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He pleaded guilty to four offences relating to the Avian Influenza (bird flu) outbreak on their premises and operating a slaughterhouse without Food Standards Agency (FSA) approval.

Mathison was fined £4,000 per offence and ordered to pay an additional £6,000 towards costs and a £2,000 victim surcharge, totalling £28,000 to be paid within 12 months.

The court heard how, despite nationwide preventative compulsory housing, biosecurity and record-keeping measures being in place, officers from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) found the end of the duck rearing shed was fully open, and no records of bird deaths had been kept when they visited the farm on 12 April 2023, to investigate a possible Avian Influenza outbreak.

Avian influenza was confirmed in the duck flock on 13 April, 2023.

Investigations

Follow-up investigations by officers from Public Protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council found slaughtering, and meat production activities had expanded such that they were greatly in excess of the permitted limit, above which approval and on-site supervision by the Food Standards Agency is required.

It was also identified there had been a breach of restrictions preventing the movement of anything onto or from the premises whilst waiting for Avian Influenza test results by continuing to supply meat to a local restaurant on 13 April 2023.

A further breach of the ongoing restrictions imposed to minimise the risk of disease spreading from the farm occurred on 31 May 2023, when old insulation was removed from the premises.

Sentencing

During sentencing, the magistrates said these actions could have had wide-reaching and serious consequences for other farmers, health and the local community. They considered this to be in the high culpability bracket, as Mathison carried on despite warnings and should have known what was required.

Angela Dearing, director of housing, transportation and public protection at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It is highly likely this Avian Influenza outbreak would not have happened if compulsory housing measures to ensure separation from wild birds had been complied with.

“It is fortunate the outbreak did not spread further when the disease control restrictions were breached.”