Manitoba Hutterite company fined for reselling turkeys to Guelph man and used for hockey fundraisers

CBC News reports that a business owned by a Manitoba Hutterite colony has been fined for selling thousands of turkeys deemed not fit for human consumption.

Hazelridge-based Heartland Colony Farms Ltd. recently pleaded guilty to a charge under the federal Meat Inspection Act in a Winnipeg courtroom and was handed a $10,000 fine.

"There are very much public safety concerns here," provincial court Judge Sid Lerner said, adding the company showed "negligent conduct" in how it allowed the roughly 13,154 kilograms of frozen turkey carcasses to be re-introduced into the food chain.

According to the facts of the case presented by federal Crown attorney Jeremy Akerstream, the colony purchased the turkeys "sight unseen" for $16,000 in 2007 after a truck ferrying them from a British Columbia plant crashed on an Alberta highway.

They were transferred from the crashed truck to two others, meaning the turkeys were no longer fit for human consumption unless they were reinspected under federally-approved guidelines, Akerstream said.

The turkeys, which were the property of an unidentified major meat processing company, were then sold in a salvage deal to the Manitoba colony.

The colony took possession of the birds and had them repackaged into clear plastic bags. They then sold and shipped the majority to a man in Guelph, Ont. for about $27,000.

In turn, he passed on the turkeys to minor hockey league clubs in Aurora and Markham, as well as to a business, the prosecutor said.

There were no illnesses reported as a result of the birds being back in the food chain, Akerstream said.

In one interview, a company official said, "he didn’t know what the big deal was, he had eaten some of the turkeys and no one got sick," Akerstream said.

When the charge was laid, many on the colony reacted with "complete and utter shock," said defence lawyer Jamie Kagan, who represented the company in court.

"This has become a very, very expensive mistake from their perspective," he said.