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Trial date delayed in bad-clams case

A Pennfield businessman charged with exporting spoiled clams, mislabelling food, and shipping fish in a vessel that failed to meet requirements made an appearance in Saint John provincial court on Thursday but the case was put off until March.

Brian L. Cheney, the managing director of 671783 NB Inc., also known as Native Harvest Atlantic Seafood, was charged in September by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with alleged seafood-related offences dating back to 2016.

A trial date was to be set Thursday, but the matter was adjourned until March 1.

Seafood distributor

Native Harvest Atlantic Seafood is described on the seafood industry directory Sea-Ex as a distributor of soft-shell clams, haddock, lobster, salmon, urchins and other products "operating in Atlantic Canada and the New England states within the United States" since 2008.

In addition to distributing seafood, the company also manages and advises on fisheries matters and represents several companies in seafood distribution, according to the directory.

Labelling, handling issues

A charge laid on Sept. 25 alleges that on March 31, 2016, Native Harvest Atlantic Seafood "did label, package, food in a manner that is false or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety."

Between Feb. 29 and May 23, 2016, the company allegedly exported live clams without satisfying the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that the water they were taken from and the premises where they were handled and processed were of a quality that would ensure the shellfish were wholesome.

The company was also charged with violating the Fish Inspection Act during that same four-month period by exporting fish in a vessel that failed to meet requirements.

In a statement, the inspection agency told CBC News that it is unable to comment on matters before the courts. Outside court Thursday, Cheney also declined comment.

Fine, possible E. coli

The Charlotte County business has run afoul of industry standards in the past, facing sanctions from other regulatory bodies in recent years.

In 2015, the company was fined $1,250 in Quebec by Transport Canada for allowing more than the authorized number of people on board a boat.

More recently, in May 2017, the federal inspection agency ordered Native Harvest Atlantic Seafood to dispose of an undisclosed amount of clams in Bayside, N.B., because of a risk they were contaminated with E. coli.

Delay in finding lawyer

The court heard Thursday that Cheney had only recently retained legal counsel.

Cheney's lawyer, Jamie McConnell, said his client had attempted to retain the services of a bilingual lawyer in Moncton. While the proceedings will be in English, the court heard, some of the reports are in French.

The Moncton lawyer was unable to handle the case.

Judge Kelly Winchester granted McConnell's request to adjourn the matter.

A trial date for Native Harvest Atlantic Seafood will be set on March 1.