Individuals sentenced in ‘organic’ food scam
The United Kingdom’s Northamptonshire County Council on Tuesday announced that three individuals implicated in a five-year scam involving farmed salmon falsely labeled as “organic” have been sentenced.
The GBP 500,000 scam, which involved numerous food products, was carried out by One Food Ltd. (OFL), a Daventry wholesaler and retailer. The company folded in March 2008.
“It is deeply ironic that the initials of this company stood for organic, natural and ethical, when clearly the foods beings supplied were anything but,” said Andre Gonzalez de Savage, a county council cabinet member. “The people behind One Food Ltd. have been responsible for ripping off both consumers and businesses alike, and I am very pleased that trading standards have pursued this lengthy and often complicated investigation to achieve today’s result.”
The scam broke in the fall of 2007, when the council’s trading standards department received information that OFL was selling non-organic ingredients labeled as organic. Trading standards officials followed up on the claim by purchasing items from OFL’s online home-delivery business, Swaddles Organic.
After tests found that salmon labeled as organic contained the additive synthetic astaxanthin, trading standards officials and Northamptionshire police launched an investigation. OFL’s computer and paperwork were seized, including invoices that showed purchases of non-organic ingredients.
The investigation uncovered that employees had knowledge of company directors purchasing non-organic ingredients from local Tesco and Waitrose stores and removing non-organic ingredients from their original packaging and repackaging them for use in OFL products.
Additionally, OFL classified up to 50 percent of its food items as non-stock items so they could by pass the computer system, eliminating a paper trail. Overall, at least 41 percent of ingredients used in OFL’s organic products were non-organic.
Neil Stansfield, OFL director, received a 27-month custodial sentence and a six-year directorship ban; Katie Stansfield, OFL company secretary, received a three-year directorship ban, a 50-week sentence suspended for two years and 150 hours of community service; and Russell Hudson, OFL operations manager, received a 40-week sentence suspended for two years and 150 hours of community service.
“People make a deliberate decision to choose organic food and have a right to know where their food has come from and what it’s made of,” said de Savage. “The county council and trading standards are 100 percent committed to protecting consumers and business in Northamptionshire and will take action wherever possible to ensure that rogue trading of this type does not continue.”