A food manufacturer which risked the health of dairy allergy sufferers by adding yoghurt and beef to a chicken kebab recipe has been fined £10,000.
Shazan Foods Limited, based at Walton Summit, near Preston, is the UK’s largest supplier of Halal meat products, and supplied the “chicken” kebabs to Asda stores nationwide.
Trading Standards prosecuted the firm under food safety laws for “causing Asda to sell chicken kebabs not of the nature demanded by the purchaser”, in that they contained less meat and more connective tissue than they should, as well as beef.
Preston Magistrates Court said the firm had been “reckless and negligent”, and ordered it to pay around £900 costs.
Prosecuting, Nick McNamara said the case followed a complaint to Trading Standards by a consumer in London, who bought a packet of Shazan’s Frozen Chicken Kebabs at Asda in Roehampton in June 2011.
He said: “On cooking the product, the consumer had cause to suspect that it contained meat other than chicken.
“Suitably fired up, she had the presence of mind to submit what she had left to a food examiner, at her own expense. The food examiner, having detected beef in the product, referred the matter to Lancashire trading standards, being the local food authority for Shazan’s.”
The court heard that, on August 4, 2011, officers took a sample of the same product at Asda on Eastway, Fulwood. The product was submitted to the County Analyst for tests, and it was confirmed beef proteins were present, although the ingredients declaration on the food’s packaging had failed to give any indication that it might contain beef or dairy products.
When interviewed the company admitted it had changed the recipe of its kebabs by adding yogurt to the ingredients. However it neglected to update its packaging which meant customers trying to avoid dairy products would have been misled.
The company was unable to say when they had changed the recipe other than that it was definitely before June – at least two months before Lancashire’s sampling took place.
Mr McNamara added: “Like many other ingredients, consumption of beef and dairy products can lead to an allergic reaction in some consumers, manifesting itself in symptoms ranging from digestive problems and mild itching through to respiratory conditions and, in extreme case, anaphylaxis. Food labelling requirements require products containing dairy products to be clearly marked as such to avoid these risks.
“The company admitted they do not carry out routine product sampling and, even then, sampling is only carried out following a change of supplier or a packaging re-design. Apart from that, the company relied simply on following recipes and on visual checks on raw materials coming into the factory.”
Company boss Nadeem Ayyub attended the case.
Defending the firm, Bridget Bailey said the family run business was launched in 1999 and had 200 employees.
She told the bench it took issues of quality “very seriously” and had a quality control manager. She said the firm “could not understand” where the beef had come from as they did not sell beef products.
After the case Lindsey McManus, deputy CEO of the charity Allergy UK, said: “Food allergy is a serious, sometimes life threatening condition which should not be underestimated. Sufferers of food allergies and intolerances often meticulously study food labels in an effort to manage their condition and avoid a reaction. Correct food labelling is vital to help sufferers keep their symptoms at bay, as even the smallest error could be potentially life threatening for someone with a severe allergy.”
Despite repeated attempts the management at Shezan were unavailable for comment.
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