A Kaikōura cafe owner and former mayoral candidate has been jailed for two months for refusing to comply with food safety regulations.
Bean Me Up owner Sharon Rayner faced charges, brought by the Kaikōura District Council, for knowingly selling non-complying food and failing to comply with a notice of direction under the Food Act 2014.
The maximum penalty for the charges was two years’ imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.
She was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment in the Kaikōura District Court on Friday.
This is not the first time the West End cafe and its owners have faced controversy. WorkSafe prosecuted the cafe for displaying a fake QR code linked to anti-Covid-19 mandate group Voices for Freedom.
In a statement issued on Sunday, council chief executive Will Doughty said there was no other option but to prosecute over the lack of compliance.
“The court’s ruling is sadly the inevitable conclusion of a year-long process in which Ms Rayner has been provided with numerous opportunities by Kaikōura District Council to comply with the Food Act, as all other food sellers do, and avoid prosecution – opportunities which she chose not to take.
“It is regrettable that we had no other option but to prosecute Ms Rayner.”
The district court had previously found Rayner guilty of both charges at a hearing she did not attend, council said.
The judge stated Rayner’s refusal to pay previous fines in relation to the case had been taken into consideration in the sentencing decision.
Some local residents hit out at the council on its Facebook page for publicising the court ruling, while others called the punishment heavy handed.
Council added further background to the case in its statement.
Rayner had previously complied with food safety regulations, but last year requested her valid food registration be withdrawn.
Bean Me Up continued to sell food to the public without food registration measures in place until Friday, the day Rayner was sentenced.
“For Kaikōura District Council not to seek prosecution of a food operator who has been given every opportunity to comply with the Food Act by council and the court would have been a dereliction of council’s duties to the public under the safety provisions of the Food Act.
“It would also have been unfair to other businesses who meet their food safety requirements under the Food Act – indeed many in the same street.”
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz