Source: Iceland

Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) served Metron Stores Limited – which operates as Iceland Ireland – with a withdrawal notice

Iceland Foods has offered its “full support” to the owner of its franchise in the Republic of Ireland to help it resolve compliance issues that led to Ireland’s food safety regulator ordering it to stop selling and recall imported animal products.

On 15 June, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) served Metron Stores Limited – which operates as Iceland Ireland – with a withdrawal notice relating to the sale of “all frozen food of animal origin” imported into Ireland since 3 March 2023. It also ordered the company to recall products from customers.

The action, which forms part of an ongoing investigation, relates to concerns about animal origin because of the filing of inadequate traceability documents and some incidents of suspected non-compliance with import controls, the authority said.

Iceland Foods sold all of its stores in Ireland to The Project Point Technologies Limited, which has since been renamed as Metron Stores Limited, on 15 February this year. The company’s director, Naeem Maniar, previously operated the Iceland franchise in Ireland, and owns a string of other discount chains in Ireland including Homesavers and Centz Group.

“Following the sale of Iceland Stores Ireland Limited, compliance with legislation in the Republic of Ireland became the responsibility of Metron Stores Limited,” an Iceland spokeswoman said in a statement.

“Since the owner of Metron Stores Limited was already operating a food importing business in Ireland, and indeed had previous experience of importing Iceland products as our franchisee in the Republic of Ireland from 2009-13, we felt confident that the business was well equipped to ensure compliance with all appropriate legislation.

“Since we became aware in recent days that there were potential issues of non-compliance, we have offered our full support to ensure there will be no recurrence of any such issues in the future,” the statement read.

The notice does not affect the 35 Iceland and two Food Warehouse stores in Northern Ireland, which continue to be owned by Iceland Foods. All Iceland Foods own-label products are manufactured to UK regulatory requirements, the supermarket said.

FSAI was first alerted to the issue by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which has been detaining consignments at ports. FSAI CEO Dr Pamela Byrne said while there had been no reports of illness, the traceability issue amounted to “very serious breaches of food law”.

“In the absence of the company providing valid and correct traceability documentation as required by the law, we have to take a precautionary approach to best protect consumers, as we cannot be fully confident of the traceability and safety of these imported frozen foods of animal origin,” Byrne said in a statement accompanying the notice.

The notice has left workers in some affected stores facing uncertainty over their roles, having received little updates from senior management, said Jamie Murphy, acting general secretary of the Independent Workers union, which represents around 70 Iceland workers from seven stores in Cork and Belfast.

The majority of Iceland stores in the country remain open but have been offering a much-reduced lineup of stock. In some, the affected products have been removed to back areas of stores where they are beginning to thaw, Murphy said.

The Grocer has been unable to contact either Metron Stores or Naeem Maniar directly for a response.

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