An investigation by The Grocer has discovered that Kenny Swann, MD at the Dungannon plant, was issued with a caution on 5 June this year, following a lengthy investigation by DARD and Dungannon and South Tyrone Council .
According to the DARD report , released to The Grocer under the Freedom of Information Act, the company admitted selling mutton as lamb while also noting Dunbia had changed its account during the probe.
In the first instance Dunbia appeared to suggest it was a regular practice . "They admitted mutton had been sold as lamb in a contract to Sweden that began in January 2005. The explanation given was that at the price negotiated they could not afford to supply lamb," stated the report, written by Karl Oakman of DARD . "In subsequent correspondence this account was changed to 77.42kg being supplied as a one-off in June 2006," the report noted. But subsequent "documentary evidence shows 2,984kg of mutton being sold as diced lamb during January-March 2006.
"These are three separate instances involving three distinct customers. I believe this practice has been ongoing and due to the fact it has never been raised with them ... they have continued to do it as a cost-saving exercise."
The documents include witness statements from former employees . One submitted a statement in which he outlined his concerns. "I was concerned at ewes going out of the factory as lamb meat. This happened on a regular basis and included ewe legs being sent out as lamb legs. It also became obvious that when reps from the companies with contracts [visited ], any ewes were taken away in a trailer and then returned at the end of the visit."
Another former worker wrote about vacuum-packed lamb - some of which "was already out of date" - being cut open to remove the spinal column . The worker claimed the meat was then "repackaged and redated before being dispatched ". The investigators found no evidence these allegations had occurred.
In a statement to The Grocer Dunbia said it had accepted a caution "for a technical breach of food regulations between January and March 2006. Any lambs with two teeth followed the ewe protocol and labelling to ensure the removal of the spinal cord; these were slaughtered on the ewe line and the carcases processed as lamb . A small quantity of this meat was supplied as lamb product to three export destinations ," it added.
Dunbia also said other allegations were "made by disgruntled ex-employees" and that "DARD concluded the allegations were without any basis ".
Allegations of malpractice at Dunbia emerged in July, when The Grocer broke the news the Dungannon plant had mislabelled Brazilian beef as British, but had escaped prosecution because it was discovered after the six-month statutory period for prosecutions had passed. Instead it was sent a warning letter by DARD and the frequency of visits was increased.
Dunbia hit the news again in October after a BBC investigation claimed undercover reporters had filmed carcases contaminated with faeces at Dunbia's plant at Llanybydder in Wales. Following the broadcast the firm insisted that it always strived to achieve high standards .