THE owner of a south Cumbria care home punished for preparing out-of-date food for residents has had its fine halved on appeal.

Abbey Healthcare (Kendal) Ltd was handed a £40,000 fine in May by a district judge.

The company admitted one charge of failing to comply with EU provision concerning food safety and hygiene.

It followed a visit by inspectors to Kendal's Heron Hill home, on March 21 last year. When they arrived, a chef was preparing cooked meat sandwiches for lunch with ham and beef which had respective use-by dates of March 17 and 19.

The court heard residents weren't actually given the out-of-date food. Six packets of meat found in a chiller were in-date.

Abbey Healthcare lodged an appeal against what it claimed was a "manifestly excessive" sentence. This was heard at Carlisle Crown Court when lawyer Joseph Hart, for the company, argued the sentencing guidelines bracket used to determine the original punishment was "wrong" and too high.

There was no suggestion, Mr Hart said, that the "isolated" breach had been deliberate, nor had there been a "flagrant" disregard for the law.

After hearing submissions - and that the care home had since made "significant" improvements and attained a "gold standard, five-star" food health and safety rating - Recorder David Swinnerton, sitting with two magistrates, cut the fine to £20,000.

"I am pleased to see things have improved," Recorder Swinnerton told a company representative.

"We very much hope that is how things remain."