Ridley Road butcher fined for black market ‘smokie’ sheep meat

Ridley Road Market sign in Dalston.

Ridley Road Market sign in Dalston. - Credit: Archant

A Ridley Road butcher has been fined for illegally selling a West African delicacy which is outlawed by the European Union for being unsafe.

Sultan Mohammed was found with 18 portioned bags of scorched skin-on sheep meat bags, known as “smokies”, in a chiller in Islam Halal Meat Ltd, when environmental health officers inspected the shop on August 6, 2013.

The meat was seized and destroyed.

“Smokie” meat is made by scorching unskinned sheep or goat carcasses with a blowtorch after slaughter and hanging.

They are often produced in very unhygienic conditions, intentionally bypassing official controls, breaching specific waste disposal regulations and disregarding animal welfare rules.

Because of this the meat poses significant risk to human and animal health and is not considered fit for human consumption because of a risk of diseases like scrapie, bovine spongiform encephalitis, E. coli or salmonella.

EU Community Hygiene Regulations do not permit the production of “smokies”, neither can they be legally imported into the European Union.

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On April 22 Islam Halal Meat Ltd and its director, Mr Mohammed, were found guilty by Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court, of placing unsafe meat from a butcher shop in Ridley Road Market, and not complying with meat traceability requirements.

At sentencing on June 5 at Thames Magistrates’ Court the company was fined £1,000 for both offences and was also ordered to pay £9,596.85 as well as a victim surcharge of £120 to Hackney Council.

Mr Mohammed was given a three-month custodial sentence suspended for 12 months, to run concurrently for each offence and he, too, was ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge to the council.

On passing sentence the chairman of the magistrates said that “because of possible consequences of eating unsafe meat”, the custodial threshold had been crossed.

A company spokesman said: “We pleaded not guilty to both charges.

“We told the council at the time and in court that the meat was not purchased by ourselves. We couldn’t identify the supplier because it wasn’t our meat.

“A friend left it in the bottom of the storage in the cold room without us realising during Eid one morning and he was going to take it home that evening for his own consumption.

“We had no intention of selling it, it was not on the shop floor for sale, it was not in plain sight or for anyone to see.

“It was an unforeseen circumstance and it spiralled out of control.”