The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has welcomed the verdicts of two court cases involving counterfeit alcohol and a firm that continued to trade despite being told to close.

The first judgement in Tuam District Court involved the sentencing of three defendants in cases led by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and supported by the FSAI.

Defendants were Aiden Cummins, of The Front Room also known as Hibernia Inn, and Joe Cummins, and Rachel Cummins, both from Tuam Retail Limited trading as Cosmo Off-License.

In October 2021, evidence was provided to the court that after a complaint to the FSAI of illness from consuming alcohol in the Front Room, an inspection of the premises by HSE officers and the FSAI found a “significant quantity” of counterfeit Smirnoff Red Label vodka, which was seized.

Aiden Cummins entered a guilty plea to five charges and was ordered to pay costs of €15,200 ($16,000). He was sentenced to 150 hours community service.

Joe Cummins entered a guilty plea to charges of failing to maintain records of the supplier of Smirnoff Red Label vodka and of the dates of transactions and delivery of the vodka. He paid costs of €1,000 ($1,100) and the judge imposed a fine of €750 ($792).

Rachel Cummins pleaded guilty to failing to notify the official agency of an establishment under her control with a view to registration. Evidence was provided that she sold Smirnoff Red Label vodka from an unknown source to Aiden Cummins. Rachel Cummins paid costs of €1,000 ($1,100) and was sentenced to 100 hours community service.

FSAI officials said the sale and supply of counterfeit alcohol is a very serious offence, as products could pose a risk to public health.

Ex takeaway operator sentenced
The second case involved a prosecution against Domenico Venditti, the former operator of Domenico Take Away in County Tipperary. It stemmed from four breaches of a closure order and other violations seen at the premises.

The closure order was served in September 2021 for non-compliance with legislation including inadequate procedures to control pests, failure to keep the premises clean and to protect food against contamination, holding foods at unsafe temperatures, lack of adequate handwashing facilities, and no evidence of regular handwashing.

Venditti pleaded guilty to nine charges brought by the FSAI. The court heard the premises was run in an unhygienic way and concern was expressed that he continued to trade despite the order to shut down.

Venditti was fined €500 ($529) for failing to comply with one closure order and was also ordered to pay €2,500 ($2,600) toward the FSAI’s costs.

Failure to keep the premises clean resulted in a three month jail term and not complying with a later closure order led to three months in prison to run consecutively with the first sentence.

The site was inspected in September 2021 by the FSAI as part of a national audit of business compliance with meat labelling and traceability requirements. During the inspection, serious and widespread non-compliance with food legislation was observed. An environmental health officer of the HSE also noted it was operating under unhygienic and unsafe conditions, which presented a danger to public health. Following the inspection, the FSAI served a closure order but the company repeatedly failed to comply.

Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said: “The ruling sends a strong message to food businesses that non-compliance with food safety legislation will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”

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