The New Zealand government department has confirmed it intercepted a large-scale home kill operation, with a number of alleged wrongdoers facing fines and possible prison time.
Home kill is the slaughter, butchering and processing of farmed animals for domestic consumption. It is illegal to trade home kill meat under New Zealand’s Animal Products Act 1999.
Compliance officers working for the MPI carried out a total of six searches at rural and urban address in the west and south of Auckland that may have had links to the alleged illegal operation.
Over 100 customers
A refrigerated container, a truck, unregulated meat, as well as what the government called a “large amount” of food processing apparatus were seized by authorities.
“This was a large-scale, sophisticated operation involving more than 100 customers,” said Simon Anderson, MPI’s northern region investigations manager. “A number of people are now being spoken to as a result of our investigation.”
Illegal home kill operations in the country pose a “very serious public health component”, said Anderson, as the government has a duty to protect the public from foodborne illnesses that can spread via unregulated meat trade.
“Most people have no problem complying, but a few do flout the law,” he added.
“The fines are substantial for those convicted and serious offenders risk custodial sentences. Individuals involved in illegal activity face a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $100,000 – it’s just not worth it.”
MPI has claimed there tends to be a spike in illegal home kill operations in the run-up to Christmas and has urged consumers to buy meat from regulated outlets, such as butchers, supermarkets and wholesalers.
“Meat being sold directly from a farm to the public is a strong indicator of unlicensed activity,” Anderson added.
“If whole beasts are being sold then the carcase must be stamped by an abattoir. Processed meat sold in trays in shops should be labelled.
“Any suspicious or unlicensed meat sellers should be reported. If we receive information about these kind of operations we will shut them down and prosecute the people making money from selling potentially substandard product.”