Botched communications from the Food Standards Agency at the height of the horsemeat scandal led to 31 people losing their jobs and a supplier missing out on up to £6.5m worth of business, it has been alleged.
Northern Irish meat supplier Freeza Meats claims it was unfairly dragged into the scandal by the FSA Northern Ireland after meat it had stored in its cold store for meat trader Martin McAdam tested positive for 80% horse DNA.
When FSA NI announced the test result, it was Freeza and not McAdam that was named, even though it had no connection to the meat other than storing it, Freeza’s former commercial director Jim Fairbairn told the Efra committee this week.
The company lost £2.5m worth of contracts and had to make 31 people redundant, he said. It had also missed out on the £3m to £4m of new business it could have gained by taking over retailer contracts from suppliers whose products had tested positive, he claimed.
“I cannot understand how the FSA in Belfast made their announcement… without some degree of thought as to what it would do to our company,” Fairbairn said. The FSA should have shown a “scintilla of commercialism” and consulted Freeza before the statement, making clear the meat belonged to McAdam and not Freeza, he added.
“If that had been portrayed as another load of McAdam beef found to be contaminated, stored in a cold store in Co Down, then we might have survived losing a contract worth £2.5m and 31 people would still be in the factory working,” he said. “They’re now on the dole. I think the FSA in Belfast have behaved - well, I better not use the word.”
The FSA said it emphasised in its statement from February that Freeza was the storage provider and not the supplier of the meat.