Factory worker jailed for contaminating food meant for high street restaurants

A factory worker who tampered with food products intended to be used in high street restaurants including Nando’s has been jailed for more than three years.

CCTV footage from inside Harvey & Brockless Fine Food Company in Evesham, Worcestershire, showed Garry Jones, 38, deliberately tampering with tubs of hummus and salad dressings when he was alone, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

From October 28 2022, Harvey & Brockless were informed that dozens of their products had been contaminated with items including rubber gloves, plastic bags and metal ring pulls.

In his role at the factory, which produces large quantities of items for restaurants across the country, Jones worked as a “picker” on the late shift and it was his responsibility to collect all the ingredients for the next day’s cooking.

Following an internal investigation of the affected products, which found other boxes had also been tampered with, the firm determined an employee must have been behind the contamination and the police were informed.

Harvey & 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.

Jones ‘knowingly and maliciously’ contaminated food products, the CPS said (CPS West Midlands/PA)
Jones ‘knowingly and maliciously’ contaminated food products, the CPS said (CPS West Midlands/PA)

Jones raised further alarm when footage showed him mixing an unknown substance into raw ingredients that were to be prepared for production the following day.

He was arrested on November 10 and questioned by West Midlands Police, where he later admitted during his police interview to combining fish sauce with soy sauce on one occasion.

As well as admitting contaminating goods, Jones also admitted a separate charge of burglary, after he was found to have broken into a colleague’s house through a window and stolen a pink hairbrush.

He was jailed for 33 months at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday for contaminating goods and nine months, to run consecutively, for the burglary charge, after earlier pleading guilty to both offences.

Mehree Kamranfar, senior crown prosecutor for the CPS West Midlands, said: “This was an extremely disturbing case that could have had far-reaching implications had the defendant not been caught.

“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.

“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 & Brockless not only cost the firm thousands of pounds, it also threatened to destroy the company’s reputation.

“When faced with the overwhelming evidence presented by the prosecution team Jones pleaded guilty to both charges.

“I want to thank West Midlands Police and the prosecution team for building the strongest possible case, which saw him convicted and today sentenced.”

Nick Martin, managing director of Harvey & Brockless, said: “This disturbing episode could have had awful consequences if Harvey & 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.

“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 that did were quickly returned before reaching the end consumer, which meant everyone was fully protected from any contamination.”