First Milk has downplayed the financial impact of a food safety recall before Christmas that affected 31 batches of own-label cheese.
The Food Standards Agency issued an alert on 17 December, warning shoppers that some batches of own-label mild Cheddar and Red Leicester cheese supplied by First Milk had been withdrawn across Asda, The Co-operative Group and Morrisons, after fears were raised that they may contain small pieces of metal.
Experts believe the recall will cost as much as £250,000 - partly due to the large number of batches involved - after taking account of the disposal costs of the cheese and any loss-of-profit claims and fines levied by the retailers affected.
The cheese recall came at a particularly bad time, as it occurred in the days leading up to their busy Christmas trading period, a senior dairy supplier suggested. “It’s a nightmare because everyone wants cheese for Christmas. The last thing you want is to be out of stock for Christmas Eve.”
However, speaking to The Grocer this week, First Milk brushed off the incident, claiming it had resumed normal supply to customers.
“We’re back in supply with our customer base - it’s been contained,” said a spokesman, adding that the issue was not as big as some commentators had made out.
It is understood that the recall was only precautionary, and no consumers are thought to have found any metal pieces in the cheese.
The sums involved in the recall are also tiny in comparison with the £25m incurred by soft drinks company Britvic in 2012, after a new sports lid on its Fruit Shoot kids drink came off in a six-year-old’s mouth and caused him to choke. It’s widely believed the recall contributed to the subsequent merger of Britvic and AG Barr to form Barr Britvic.