Confectionery giant Cadbury pleaded guilty to three offences under food and hygiene regulations in connection with a salmonella scare which led to the recall of more than a million chocolate bars.
The company’s barrister, Anthony Scrivener QC, entered the pleas on behalf of the firm during a 10-minute hearing at Birmingham Magistrates Court yesterday following a prosecution brought by Birmingham City Council.
The facts of the case were not opened at the hearing and Cadbury will be sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on July 13.
Mr Scrivener told the court that although certain facts were still in dispute, Cadbury accepted its responsibility and was pleading guilty to the charges.
‘They have already spent £20 million on improvements,’ the QC said. ‘We accept that this case should be sent to the Crown Court for sentence.’
The summons issued to Cadbury alleged the company put ‘unsafe’ contaminated chocolates on the market between January 19 and March 10 last year.
The other charges accused Cadbury of failing to immediately inform the relevant authorities about potential dangers and failing to identify ‘hazards’ posed by the salmonella contamination.
Cadbury was the subject of an extensive investigation by both Birmingham City Council and Herefordshire Council after recalling more than a million products on July 23 last year due to the contamination, which it blamed on a leaking pipe at its factory in Marlbrook, Herefordshire.
Herefordshire Council confirmed it will prosecute Cadbury after an inquiry led by its environmental health team.
A spokesman for the local authority said six ‘informations’ were laid yesterday at Hereford Magistrates’ Court. Cadbury will be summoned to appear before Herefordshire Magistrates on July 24.
In a statement released after the hearing, Cadbury said: ‘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.
‘Quality has always been at the heart of our business, but the process we followed in the UK in this instance was unacceptable.
‘We have apologised for this and do so again today. Since last year more than £20 million has been spent in the UK on new and rigorous quality control procedures.
‘The processes that led to this failure ceased from June last year and will never be reinstated.
‘We understand that Hereford Council has brought charges against Cadbury Ltd relating to last year’s incident and the operations at the factory at Marlbrook.
‘We will be examining these and responding at the appropriate time.
‘As this hearing is the first stage in a continuing legal process, we do not believe it is appropriate to comment any further.
‘We sincerely regret this lapse and are focused on ensuring that this can never happen again.
‘A major review has taken place of our quality, health and safety procedures globally to learn lessons and ensure that our consumers can rely on the highest levels of processes and standards wherever we operate.’
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