A large, illegal meat production ring has been discovered in Auckland, Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says.

Compliance officers yesterday searched six rural and urban properties in South and West Auckland, where they found and seized unregulated meat, a refrigerated container, a truck, and food processing equipment.

Northern region investigations manager Simon Anderson said more than 100 customers had bought the home-kill meat produced by the "large-scale, sophisticated operation".

MPI officers were investigating and speaking to multiple people.

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If convicted those producing and distributing the meat could be fined up to $100,000 or imprisoned for up to five years.

Eating home-kill meat posed "a very serious" public health risk, Anderson said.

"We have a duty to protect the public from the threat of various food borne illnesses associated with illegal home kill."

He urged shoppers to buy meat from regulated stores, such as butcheries and supermarkets.

"This is particularly the case in the lead up to Christmas where illegal home kill operations are, traditionally, more prevalent.

"Meat being sold directly from a farm to the public is a strong indicator of unlicensed activity.

"If whole beasts are being sold then the carcass must be stamped by an abattoir. Processed meat sold in trays in shops should be labelled.

"Most people have no problem complying but a few do flout the law."

Anderson said people should report suspicious or unlicensed meat sellers by calling MPI's food safety helpline on 0800 008 333.

He also had a warning for those breaking the law: "If we receive information about these kind of operations we will shut them down and prosecute the people making money from selling potentially substandard product."