Company to sue after State lab blunder led to factory closure
AN ANIMAL feeds company claims its business has been virtually shut down after a "vial mix-up" at the State Laboratory wrongly found its bread samples had tested positive for harmful dioxins.
Nigel Foster, general manager of ASM Alternative Feeds Ltd, said its factory unit at Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, was now closed down with the loss of six full-time and two part-time jobs as a result of their registration being suspended for more than five months.
Correspondence seen by the Irish Independent from the State Laboratory confirmed there was a "false positive" result showing elevated dioxin levels due to a "sample mix-up" between the sample of bread and a laboratory testing sample containing dioxins.
"The registration was suspended for just over five months. We couldn't process any feed or do anything at the unit," Mr Foster said.
He said his solicitors, Brendan T Muldowney and Company in Co Longford, intended to bring a case for damages.
Officials at the Department of Agriculture had moved to investigate ASM Alternative Feeds after a bread sample tested positive for dioxins.
It later emerged there had been a "sample mix-up".
The laboratory apologised to the department for the "significant difficulties" the false positive result caused.
However, on a second visit to the ASM Alternative Feeds unit, department inspectors claimed they found "traceability issues" in tracking the feed sent out from the plant.
Last summer, the department temporarily suspended the company's registration as a feed business operator due to "the positive dioxin result and the significant traceability deficiencies".
Mr Foster said the firm was now closing the 12,000sq ft new industrial unit it moved to in March 2009 and would resume running the business solely from the North.
Mr Foster insisted the company's traceability standards were high and full addresses and numbers of customers had been retained.
The department highlighted a consignment of 8.5 tonnes of feed that had been delivered to an address in Northern Ireland, which it said it could not track down.
Mr Foster said the firm had provided directions to where the product had been delivered. The business insisted it had a number of people on its books by that surname and inspectors must have visited the incorrect farm.
ASM took a judicial review case to the High Court late last year to have the registration as a feed business restored.
Before the case got under way, the chief state solicitor's office confirmed the department was removing the temporary suspension.
Yet, he said they intended to continue to work with officers in the agriculture department in the North to identify the location of "the missing consignment of feed".
A spokeswoman for the department said: "As this matter is still before the courts, the department will not be making any comment."