Shards of wood, metal, and bird feathers allegedly found in salt used to make cheese

Food producer Glanbia claims it suffered losses of €3.2 million after pieces of wood, bird feathers and shards of metal were found in salt it had been supplied for use in its cheese products.

Glanbia Ireland DAC and Glanbia Foods Ireland Ltd have brought Commercial Court proceedings against the Irish Salt Company Ltd, of Tramore Road, Cork, and British Salt Ltd of Northwich, Cheshire, England.

It is claimed they supplied or manufactured allegedly contaminated salt, which was found in Glanbia’s Ballyragget, Kilkenny, and Rocklands, Wexford, production facilities.

It is claimed that on August 19th, 2020, 17 shards of wood were discovered by employees at Ballyragget during a salt screen sieve process.

Another piece of deleterious/foreign material was discovered the same day in a 20kg block of cheese which had already been produced, it is alleged.

An independent party, in the presence of representatives for both defendants, later sieved other rejected bags of salt and some 266 shards of wood were found

Glanbia says the salt, manufactured by British Salt, had been supplied to it by Irish Salt in early August.

British Salt admitted in September 2020 that it had previously discovered shards of wood at its UK facility in Middlewich and had previously found damage to the wood lining of a silo used to hold the salt, Glanbia says.

The second incident occurred in Glanbia Rocklands on September 29th, 2020, during a scheduled inspection of a salt sifting apparatus, it says. Bird feathers, shards of metal and a hard substance similar to salt or masonry were found, it is claimed.

Storage in open ended shed

Further inspections of the entire salt storage and delivery systems at Rocklands were carried out and “yet more pieces of deleterious and/or foreign material in the form of shards of wood” were discovered, it says.

Glanbia says British Salt allegedly admitted to it in October 2020 the salt had been stored in a portion of its premises consisting of an open-ended shed structure which was susceptible to roosting by birds.

The salt was taken from this shed during a period of planned maintenance on British Salt’s manufacturing facility, Glanbia says it was told. A cull and removal of the birds in the shed took place a number of days before the salt was delivered to Glanbia, it was also told.

In order to increase the rate of flow of salt into tankers, British Salt employees removed a final sieving mesh screen, it is claimed.

Glanbia says the defendants allegedly manufactured or supplied salt which it claims was, among other things, dangerous, contaminated, not of merchantable quality and unfit for human consumption.

Glanbia says it suffered losses of around €3.2 million but could have faced potential losses of €6.7 million had it not taken steps to minimize losses by working closely with representatives of the Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

The company claims damages of breach of duty, warranty and contract.

The case was admitted to the Commercial Court list on Monday, on consent between the parties, by Mr Justice Denis McDonald.

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