A man has been jailed in England after he admitted tampering with food products used in high street restaurants.

Garry Jones worked for Harvey and Brockless Fine Food Company, a manufacturing firm based in Evesham that produces large quantities of items for restaurants nationwide.

The 38-year-old pleaded guilty to contaminating goods supplied to Nando’s. No contaminated goods reached customers.

He was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment following a hearing at Worcester Crown Court.

Jones worked as a picker on the late shift, so he collected the required ingredients for the next day’s cooking.

In late October 2022, Harvey and Brockless were informed that dozens of products had been contaminated with rubber gloves, plastic bags, and metal ring pulls.

Internal investigation findings
After an internal investigation found other boxes had also been manipulated, the firm discovered an employee must have been behind the issues and contacted the police.

CCTV cameras inside the factory showed him tampering with tubs of hummus and salad dressings when he was alone.

Harvey and Brockless’s products go through a metal detector before leaving the kitchen area, meaning they could not have been tampered with during the production process and must have been contaminated in the storage area of the factory.

Footage showed Jones mixing an unknown substance into raw ingredients to be used in production the following day. He was arrested in November and questioned by West Midlands Police, where he admitted combining fish sauce with soy sauce on one occasion.

Mehree Kamranfar, senior crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in the West Midlands, said the case was “alarming” and could have had far-reaching implications.

“Jones knowingly and maliciously contaminated food products that were going to be distributed to some of the most popular high street restaurants across the country,” said Kamranfar.  

“The cross-contamination caused alarm both within the company and externally, as Jones’s utter disregard, particularly in mixing fish sauce with raw ingredients, could have threatened serious harm to those with allergies. In addition, sabotaging the food products supplied by Harvey and Brockless cost the firm thousands of pounds and threatened to destroy the company’s reputation.”

Nick Martin, managing director of Harvey and Brockless, said it was important that people realized that such criminal actions will be punished.

“This disturbing episode could have had awful consequences if Harvey and Brockless had not had such robust quality assurance and product recall procedures in place. While everyone at the company was shocked and appalled at what happened, we were also reassured at how our quick response meant that no contaminated products ever reached any end consumers,” he said.

“As soon as we became aware of the contaminations taking place, we recalled the entire batch of products involved and communicated openly with all our customers and with the environmental health officer. The vast majority of the products involved never even reached their destination, and any items that did were quickly returned before reaching the end consumer, which meant everyone was fully protected from any contamination.”

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)