Smokehouse closes following operating without licence charge
OMAFRA regulations were too onerous for one-man operation, owner says
By Jenn Watt
Norm’s Smokehouse is no longer selling food, from now on selling vintage fishing tackle and processing wild game, the owner says, following years of frustration with provincial regulations and a recent conviction for operating a plant without a licence.
In September 2019, a compliance and advisory officer and a health inspector came to Norm’s Smokehouse in Gelert to do an inspection.
“At the time of this inspection, there were a number of smoked, cured and dehydrated meat products that were confirmed to have been made on site,” a provincial government spokesperson said. “The production of these types of products is regulated under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001 (FSQA), and a licence is required to produce them if they are to be offered for sale or distributed to other people or businesses. [Owner/operator Norm Weber] did not have a licence to conduct those activities.”
He was also found to have been supplying a local business with the meat products.
Weber pled guilty to carrying on a licensed activity without holding a licence contrary to Section 4(1) of the on Feb. 11 and was fined $6,000 plus a victim surcharge of $1,500.
Weber told the Minden Times that the smoked meat found during the inspection was in his coolers, but not in the shop's display coolers.
Over the years Weber said he's found regulations imposed on his one-man operation increasingly burdensome to the point where he could no longer operate.
“The trouble with the way OMAFRA [the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs] works is there’s one set of rules for everybody, so Maple Leaf Meats and Norm’s Smokehouse all have to follow exactly the same rules regardless if I have 100 customers and they have 100,000 customers,” he said.
Weber was initially licensed in 2007 and for years complied with regulations, he said, describing a system of complex documentation and inspections. In 2016, following a conviction for interfering with a detained meat product without authorization, Weber said he relinquished his licence and sold ready-to-eat products from an outside supplier as well as smoked fish and cheese.
That incident, which Weber refers to as “the salami caper,” was the result of Weber producing sausage not approved for inspection. That sausage was placed under detention and he smoked it without authorization.
In total, Norm’s Smokehouse has been convicted three times under the Food Safety and Quality Act.
Despite the charges, Weber said that food safety was never an issue. “Never ever once ever was there an issue with food safety,” he said.
Following his most recent charge, Weber decided it no longer made sense to stay open.
“They just keep snagging me up on these stupid regulations," he said. "I closed my business so that I can still make my own product. I’m in my shop now and I just made some pepperettes and I don’t have to worry about compliance officers coming in and finding it because I’m not a food premises anymore. ”
He said there is now a sign in the shop that says his business has been regulated out of existence.
He now smokes meat for personal use only and will continue with wild game meat processing.
“I’m done,” he said. “Good luck to anybody else in the business.”
With files from Angelica Ingram