Australian beef grief for Field Farm Fresh

A company that tried to pass off Australian meat as finest British beef has lost its appeal against a £35,000 fine.

Field Farm Fresh of Oxfordshire was convicted by District Judge Gerald Chalk of 15 charges, brought by Cumbria's trading standards department at Kendal magistrates' court in July.

Those offences included selling food not of the nature demanded, selling food with misleading labels and applying false trade descriptions. The prosecution followed complaints by two Cumbrian companies - Lakeland Fish and Game in Satterthwaite and Lakeland Speciality Foods in Staveley - that the "prime British beef" they had ordered was in fact from Australia.

At an appeal hearing before a judge and two independent magistrates at Carlisle Crown Court, the firm, which is run by five farming brothers, argued that the fine was "manifestly excessive". It said it could not be held responsible for the actions of its general manager, who, for some reason, had seen fit to cut the tell-tale Australian logo from the beef before selling it to the Cumbrian customers. The firm's barrister Jonathan Ashley-Norman said: "This is a responsible company, willing and able to abide by the standards imposed upon it."

The judge dismissed the appeal, saying the fines were not excessive. The company was also made to pay another £4,250 in court costs, in addition to the £19,500 costs accrued at the earlier hearing.

David Morgan, managing director of Field Farm Fresh, said the fine was totally disproportionate to the offence and he was considering a further appeal.