Four British men have been jailed for a total of ten years for their part in a scam to sell condemned chicken and turkey to supermarkets, hospitals and schools.

The men admitted selling 450 tonnes of condemned poultry, which ended up in supermarkets, reported Agence France-Presse.

"If you had been dealing in Class A drugs rather than in chicken, then the sentences you would be receiving would be in double figures," judge Richard Benson told the four at a court in Nottingham.

"The people who consume drugs know the risks involved, your victims didn't. Anyone in their right mind wouldn't have eaten the food you put into the human food chain had they known what it was," the judge was quoted by AFP as saying.

The prosecution told the court that between 1995 and 2001, Denby Poultry Products, a rat-infested and sewage-ridden plant in Derbyshire, had bought condemned poultry carcasses from slaughterhouses for around £25 (US$41) per tonne. The meat was then trimmed down and sold on as legitimate meat cuts for over £1,500 per tonne.

A fifth man, believed to be the ringleader, was convicted of the fraud in his absence after he fled before the start of the trial.