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Blueshell Mussels fined over record keeping

AN AWARD-winning Shetland shellfish growing business that produces 60 per cent of Scotland’s farmed mussels was fined £1,750 at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday for minor faults in its record keeping.

The court heard that the deficiencies came to light when Shetland Islands Council sent environmental health officers to visit Blueshell Mussels’ factory and dispatch centre, at Sparl, near Brae, in 2009 following a dispute about protocol.

During the visit on 3 June officers noticed some registration documents were incomplete or missing and returned to remove documents at the end of that month.

On Wednesday the court heard that three registration documents had been missing from batches of mussels that were brought from growing sites to their factory in November 2008 and May 2009.

A further 35 such documents were either blank, inaccurate, incomplete or had been filled in by pencil rather than an ink pen between September and November 2008.

On Wednesday the company pled guilty to keeping incomplete records, and defence agent Denis Yule said they were “extremely distressed that their records have been found wanting”.

However he added that the documents had been subjected to a very high degree of examination. “I doubt if any public or private sector company could come out of this degree of scrutiny with an absolute clean bill of health,” he said.

Blueshell Mussels was formed in 1997 and employs 30 people in Shetland’s north mainland producing 2,500 tonnes of mussels a year. Last year they made a profit of just under £1 million, though Sheriff Graeme Napier noted they had managed to spend almost £870,000 on administration costs.

Mr Yule said that the company had won various food quality awards and had now received approval from the SIC’s environmental health department to process scallops and white fish as well as mussels.

The company has employed a full time quality manager and last month received approval to supply the local supermarkets with their products.

Mr Yule said that the company has never had any issues to do with the quality of its products and one auditor who had been to check their record keeping said their documentation was “some of the best they had ever seen”.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said it was very important for consumers to be able to trace food products back to their source and that these were “fairly straight forward records to keep”.

The court heard that the relationship between the council’s environmental health department and the company had greatly improved.