Butchers owner hits back at Food Standards Agency report after recalled products

Nicholls Meats butchers shop, Great Yarmouth.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Nicholls Meats butchers shop, Great Yarmouth.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The owner of a local chain of butchers has disputed a report from the government's Food Standards Agency, which stated it had to recall stuffing and cocktail sausages this week.

In a statement issued today, Michael Wright, owner of Nicholls Meats Ltd - which has shops in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Lowestoft and Thetford - has addressed health warnings published by the FSA, giving his version of the events.

Mr Wright says a number of the products recalled were pulled before they even reached the shelves.

The statement read: 'The incident occurred on Monday, December 19. Nicholls Meats purchased a consignment of over-produced stuffings - foods which were made in November 2015 with an agreement that all products would be use by either December 2015 or December 2016.

'If the stuffings and cocktail sausages were deep frozen to minus 20 degrees then the supplier agreed that we could defrost them and give them five to 10 days life. The supplier even emailed this to the Suffolk Environmental Health Officer (EHO) and via a conference call with the Norfolk EHO and myself on Tuesday, December 20 at 2.30pm, we were ready to follow their guidelines.

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'We had nine pallets in storage but when we pulled three of them out we discovered that 20 or so cases were used by 2014 and were dropped at the Lowestoft store and Gorleston store. These were put on hold and not released to general sale.

'The EHO then entered the scene and made a huge fuss of this when they knew very clearly we did not have them on sale or had any intention to sell. The product was on hold awaiting my attention,

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'Due to the vast amount of meat we had in the stores these were left out of the fridge (as they were not being sold). Things then escalated to FSA who then spoke to our supplier who at first didn't even realise they sold me the product until I reminded them of the £7,000 I paid them for it.

'They didn't even know that the salesman who sold me the product had agreed that the product was safe and that as long as it was kept frozen at minus 20 then it could be used up to one year after manufacturing. This is standard practice in food manufacturing.

'At this point Nicholls Meats decided to withdraw all stuffings, stuffing balls and cocktail sausages from all stores and also the stock in the cold store (not the EHO, but Nicholls) and instructed the cold store to take back all the stock from stores and along with the cold store stock, to destroy all stock and send all parties a destruction certificate ,

'The Norfolk EHO even recommended that we sell them at Easter so we didn't lose out financially under strict defrost procedure (we rejected this offer)

'The same day I put a statement on Facebook telling all customers that there will be no stuffing in the hampers and they could choose a replacement.

'Then by complete surprise we saw an FSA alert, but it said pork products, which then created panic, but when you read the full article it says cocktail sausage and stuffings (60pc of which were still in cold store on hold awaiting destruction and hadn't even been delivered to any store

'No pork sausage , pigs in blankets or sausage meats were part of this stock, all our pork sausages are made from FL Edge and are made daily for us.

'No pork product was affected either - all our Pork is purchased from Towers & Co or Midland Foods.

'Nicholls Meats have invested over £250,000 in our stores and we would never put food safety or customers at risk for the sake of profit. We operate a good company and all products are clearly labelled. We take advantage from both UK and EU buying to offer great prices just like many others

'As soon as we realised we may have a problem, we withdrew all the stuffings and cocktail sausages - not the EHO or FSA.

'We have also contacted any customer who may have had the stuffing of which there were only a few and made sure all the stuffing has been disposed and a refund or replacement offered

'We have to add the support from Norfolk EHO was second to none and they helped and supported us through this incident'

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