Foodservice claims not widespread

Meat bosses are playing down suggestions that the problems highlighted in claims about McLaren Foods are more widespread.

Meat bosses are playing down suggestion that the problems highlighted in claims about McLaren Foods are more widespread.

A BBC report claimed McLaren was delivering meat in rancid conditions after allegations by a former employee.

According to the BBC, the former employee, van driver Alan Castell, alleged there were a number of potentially fatal breaches of health, safety and hygiene laws dating back more than two years.

No action is to be taken against McLaren Foods as the company has now gone into administration, it was reported.

However, in broadcasts on Radio Four's Today programme, it was claimed the problem was more widespread.

Stuart Roberts, director with the British Meat Processors Association, denied this was the case. "We are not aware of this being a widespread problem, and would condemn the practice.

"We need to treat reports like these with some care, and look at where they came from."

Castell had been taking a case of unfair dismissal, under whistle-blowing legislation, to an employment tribunal, the BBC said.

The action however was abandoned when the company went into administration.

McLaren Foods supplied hotels in London, it also supplied schools, hospitals and government offices.

Castell said the vans were not disinfected on a daily basis, and would be loaded for delivery the night before and then be left overnight with the refrigeration off, before being delivered the next day.

Raw and cooked meat were also transported together, the BBC report claimed. Castell filmed short video clips and took photos on his mobile phone.

His claims are also backed by the company's own internal inspection reports and minutes of meetings for both 2005 and 2006, the BBC said.

Castell notified the environmental health office in Chelmsford, Essex, which conducted an inspection which deemed conditions at the Chelmsford depot to be satisfactory although the company closed down shortly after the inspection due to financial difficulties.

A spokesman for the FSA said: "Any company that delivers either fresh or frozen meat to their customers has a legal responsibility to ensure their product is safe to eat and is ofthe quality expected by the consumer.

"Clearly unhygienic processing, storage or transportation of food is unacceptable and can put the consumer at risk. We would be keen to look into any evidence which suggests hygiene problems along any part of the farm to fork chain in conjunction with any relevant local authority responsible for enforcement action."