Record fine for chicken shop owner as food safety crackdown continues

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 19th June 2008

A record fine of $132,000 has been handed to the owner of a chain of Sydney poultry meat shops for a string of food law offences, Primary Industries Minister, Ian Macdonald, said today.Hai Bao Chen, the proprietor of five shops trading as Obo Fresh Chicken, was convicted of 22 charges under the Food Act including unhygienic premises, substandard maintenance and poor pest control.

In February this year, the company was also fined nearly $12,000 for illegally adding sulphur dioxide preservative to chicken mince at its Ashfield shop.

Mr Chen no longer operates the Obo Fresh Chicken business that has shops in Ashfield, Cabramatta, Granville, Ingleburn and Macquarie Fields.

“This proprietor is clearly a serial offender with a history of poor performance going back to 2005, so I’m pleased the court has dealt with him severely,” Mr Macdonald said. “The list of offences is disturbing and could have had serious health consequences on consumers had the Food Authority not acted to close the business down.”

A summary of the convictions heard in the Chief Industrial Magistrate’s Court include:

* Fines totalling $35,000 for seven offences at the Ashfield shop, including unclean premises and failure to keep food under temperature control;
* Fines totalling $42,000 for eight offences at the Cabramatta shop, including inadequate pest control, unclean equipment and premises and inadequate monitoring of a food safety program;
* Fine of $5000 for failure to identify chicken meat for disposal at the Granville shop;
* Fines totalling $24,000 for four offences at the Ingleburn shop, including unclean premises and failure to keep 14 barbecued chickens under temperature control; and
* Fines totalling $12,000 for two offences at the Macquarie Fields shop for failure to keep food under temperature control and inadequate monitoring of a food safety program.

The defendant was also ordered to pay a further $14,000 in legal fees and court costs on top of the $118,000 fine.

“The court found that the case was serious and therefore imposed penalties at the top end of its $10,000 jurisdictional limit for many of charges,” Mr Macdonald added. “Furthermore, the defendant showed no remorse so the court was compelled to impose a severe penalty to act as general deterrence to such intolerable practices.”

Mr Macdonald believes the court’s decision sends a strong message to operators to adhere to food safety guidelines and is indicative of the tough stance on food safety in the state. “The sentence sends out a clear message to those responsible for running a food business that cutting corners for commercial gain at the expense of putting consumers at risk is unacceptable. Most food outlets are doing the right thing, but those that are not will be caught and pay a heavy price,” he warned. “Consumers in NSW are protected by the most robust food regulations in the nation. The system is there to ensure the NSW public is protected from a handful of unscrupulous operators.”

Australian government organisations have been increasing their focus on food safety in recent times, with legislation to allow ‘naming and shaming’ becoming popular. From July, the NSW Food Authority will begin to publish on its website details of food law violations, such as penalty notices, along with prosecutions (which it has made public since July 2007).

The heightened focus might be working, particularly in terms of consumer perception, with FSANZ reporting their belief that consumer confidence is improving. A survey conducted in April indicated that 64.5% of people were of the opinion that food safety had stayed the same or improved in the past year.

Full details of the prosecution are available on the Food Authority’s website –