Chocolate-maker Cadbury was fined £1 million today following a national salmonella outbreak which left three victims in hospital.
The Birmingham-based confectioner, which pleaded guilty to nine food safety offences at earlier hearings, was also ordered to pay costs of more than £152,000 by a judge at the city’s Crown Court.
The charges, which included a failure by Cadbury to notify the authorities of positive tests for salmonella, were brought after a total of 42 people fell ill during last year’s outbreak.
Recorder James Guthrie QC fined Cadbury £500,000 for putting unsafe chocolate on sale and £100,000 on each of two other charges brought by Birmingham City Council.
Food safety breaches
The judge also fined the firm £50,000 for each of six offences relating to food safety breaches at its factory in Marlbrook, Herefordshire.
Recorder Guthrie said he did not believe that Cadbury had made a conscious decision to cut costs when it altered its ‘zero tolerance’ policy regarding salmonella cells in its products.
‘I regard this as a serious case of negligence,’ the judge said.
‘It therefore needs to be marked as such to emphasise the responsibility and care which the law requires of a company in Cadbury’s position.’
Cadbury Ltd apologised today and offered its ‘sincere regrets’ to the people who were taken ill.
A spokesman said: ‘Quality has always been at the heart of our business, but the process we followed in the UK in this instance has been shown to be unacceptable.
‘We have apologised for this and do so again today. In particular, we offer our sincere regrets and apologies to anyone who was made ill as a result of this failure. We have spent over £20 million in changing our procedures to prevent this ever happening again.’
The spokesman stressed the company had acted in good faith.
‘Mistakenly, we did not believe that there was a threat to health and thus any requirement to report the incident to the authorities – we accept that this approach was incorrect.’
He added: ‘We sincerely regret these lapses and have undertaken a full review of our quality procedures to learn lessons and ensure that our consumers can rely on the highest levels of processes and standards.’
Birmingham Crown Court was told last week how Cadbury failed to inform the authorities of dozens of tests which showed its processed materials and ready-to-eat products contained the salmonella organism.
The court also heard that the food poisoning alert followed a decision by Cadbury in 2003 to change its product testing systems to allow a ‘tolerance level’ of salmonella cells in its chocolate.
More than a million products were recalled by Cadbury on June 23 last year, costing it £15 million.
The Press Association, All Rights Reserved.