Two individuals were sentenced for their involvement in offences related to the Trade Marks Act 1994 and food hygiene violations at Leeds Crown Court on 24th July 2023.
Irfan Hanif Patel, residing on Ravensthorpe Road, Dewsbury, received a 12-month community order and was required to perform 120 hours of unpaid work after admitting guilt to the charges. Similarly, his brother, Mohammed Patel, residing on Thornhill Street, Dewsbury, also received a 12-month community order and was assigned 100 hours of unpaid work for the same offences.
The court set timetables under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and a future date was scheduled for confiscation hearings where fines and prosecution costs would be addressed.
The investigation began in December 2020 when West Yorkshire Trading Standards and Kirklees Council Environmental Health Team received information about counterfeit Abel and Cole cranberry sauce being distributed nationwide.
This investigation involved the collaboration of the National Food Crime Unit and other local authorities. The counterfeit cranberry sauce was traced back to Irfan Patel, who operated as a sole trader, and he supplied it to his brother Mohammed Patel, who was the director of Stock Up Direct Limited.
Stock Up Direct Limited was responsible for distributing over 1,000 jars of the counterfeit cranberry sauce to a wholesaler, who further supplied it to various food businesses across the country, including two businesses in the Kirklees area.
Neither Irfan nor Mohammed had registered their food businesses with Kirklees Council, which meant they were operating illegally and had never undergone food hygiene inspections to ensure compliance with the required standards.
During the investigation, officers from West Yorkshire Trading Standards and Kirklees Council Food Safety Team visited the food businesses supplied in Kirklees and collected jars of the counterfeit sauce for examination.
They also identified potential locations for Irfan and Mohammed’s businesses and visited Irfan’s business premises at the time, situated in Bretton Park Way, Dewsbury. Irfan claimed that the stock was purchased from an untraceable trader who provided an invoice for the purchase.
Simultaneously, officers visited the company Stock Up Direct Limited. During a subsequent interview with Mohammed Patel, he stated that he had never seen any stock passing through the company and revealed that it was primarily a side business for his brother, who was involved in other larger companies.
Upon inspecting the Bretton Park Way premises, officers found a warehouse containing large quantities of food items. However, Irfan Patel was unable to provide any documentation to prove the legal origin of the foods.
As a result, all food items were detained pending further investigation. Since the source of the food items was uncertain and no regulatory checks had been conducted to ensure safe storage, handling, or distribution, the Council Food Safety officers seized the food and obtained a Food Condemnation Order from Kirklees Magistrates’ Court in February 2021.
The order was granted due to concerns about sourcing food from unregistered businesses without undergoing proper checks, which could pose risks to food safety. Moreover, the origin of the food was unknown, raising suspicions that it could be linked to illegal food activities, such as reintroducing food destined for waste back into the food chain. Consequently, all seized food items were destroyed.
A sample of the suspected counterfeit cranberry sauce was sent to the Public Analyst, who confirmed that it was not genuine Abel and Cole cranberry sauce. The trademark representative for Abel and Cole also verified that the cranberry sauce label was a copy of the registered Abel and Cole trademark.
In a joint statement, Trading Standards Manager, David Strover and Councillor Naheed Mather, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees at Kirklees Council said, “Businesses need to ensure they are registered with the local authority 28 days before beginning to operate. They must have a traceability system in place and to only purchase stock they believe is legitimate by conducting checks. Supplying food that is counterfeit can pose serious risks to the community as it is often made in an uncontrolled environment with uncontrolled processes and ingredients.”