The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SCFCIU) has secured its first major conviction since the agency was created in 2015.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) welcomed the sentencing of Jamie George, who supplied the public with a potentially fatal substance sold as a diet pill for weight loss.

The 32-year-old was sentenced at Stirling Sheriff Court to 37 months in jail for distributing 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP), a toxic industrial chemical. The gym boss was convicted on July 4 after pleading guilty to supplying DNP, a yellow powder, usually made into tablet or capsule form.

George pleaded guilty to a charge that, between May 1, 2017, and October 8, 2021, at various premises, including Muscle Hut in Camelon, he supplied the public with 2,4-dinitrophenol for consumption, knowing it was unsafe, injurious to health, and potentially lethal if ingested.

Reaction to sentencing
Ron McNaughton, head of the SFCIU, said the verdict highlights the work undertaken by the unit, local authorities, and Police Scotland to keep people safe.

“Jamie George’s sentencing sends a clear message that there are consequences for those individuals who are prepared to put peoples’ lives at risk to profit financially from the supply of DNP. DNP is not safe for human consumption under any circumstances. If you consume DNP, you are very likely to become ill, potentially seriously ill, and there is a real possibility that you could die as a result,” he said.

Sentencing resulted from an investigation between FSS’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit, Police Scotland, and Falkirk Council’s environmental health department. It is the first case involving DNP to be prosecuted in Scotland. Authorities recovered 5 kilograms of DNP, 120 filled capsules, and 10,000 empty capsules as part of the investigation. It’s thought that 1 kilogram of DNP is enough to create 5,000 capsules.

DNP has been linked to at least 33 deaths in the United Kingdom since 2007, including two in Scotland. Other side effects include nausea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, headaches, rapid breathing, and an irregular heartbeat.

Detective Chief Inspector David MacGregor of Forth Valley CID said it was vital that George’s operation was halted to prevent further poisonings.

“Jamie George acted recklessly, without regard for the lives of those he supplied it to. It’s vital the public understands how lethal DNP can be, and that’s why this conviction is so important. It sets a precedent to anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to break the law and put lives at risk through supplying it.” 

From Oct. 1, DNP will be regulated under the Poisons Act 1972, which means anyone who wants to buy it will need a license and use a registered pharmacist. This act applies in England, Wales, and Scotland.

Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council, hopes the conviction acts as a deterrent.

“The investigation involving our environmental health officers involved a significant resource in executing search warrants, examining evidence, interviewing witnesses, and checking fitness centers. The aim was to disrupt and stop the manufacture and sale of this dangerous chemical for human consumption.” 

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