Former Betta Maid bakery director Udo Boschan has been handed a nominal fine of $3600 for breaching food hygiene standards at his Unanderra facility after the magistrate ruled his transgressions were not that serious.
Boschan pleaded guilty to four counts of failing to comply with the food standards code after it was discovered the bakery was using rusty, dirty equipment to prepare the food in an environment that contained “moderate to extreme” levels of rodent and cockroach activity.
While the fine falls well short of the maximum $40,000 penalty that could have imposed, Boschan is unlikely to be sighing with relief just yet, given the court is yet to decided whether he should pay the NSW Food Authority’s bill for legal and professional costs, which totals $70,000.
Defence lawyers had originally called for Boschan to avoid a conviction altogether on the charges, saying he had been through a “nightmare” in the past 12 months.
However, Magistrate Michael Stoddart said a conviction was warranted.
“I’m of the view the offences could not be classified in any way as trivial; convictions must be recorded,” he said.
“I do say however, that in regards to the overall objective seriousness of the matters, they ought to be placed at the lower end of the scale.”
The court heard the time frame of three of the charges – February 2015 – coincided with a NSW Food Authority investigation into a salmonella outbreak at a series of Illawarra Retirement Trust nursing homes in the region.
The authority publicly announced at the time that it had detected a rare strain of salmonella in a series of ready-to-eat desserts prepared by Betta Maid for IRT.
Up to 30 people fell ill after eating contaminated chocolate eclairs, apple strudels and chocolate slices. Three elderly residents died.
The agency laid charges against Betta Maid and Boschan individually in December 2015.
The company, which by this stage was in the hands of administrators, did not contest the charges and was subsequently convicted and fined $63,000 in May last year.
Boschan initially denied the charges against him.
He had been due to attend a three-day hearing on the matter last month, but struck a plea bargain with prosecutors on the first day, resulting in him pleading guilty to the four breach charges in exchange for the withdrawal of a more serious food handling charge.
A decision on the costs order will be handed down in court on Thursday afternoon.
Boschan’s lawyers have labelled the $70,000 figure “outrageous” and proposed both parties pay their own respective costs.