Thursday 23 November 2017

Water firm in hygiene row facing liquidation

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

A COMPANY at the centre of a bottled water withdrawal controversy two years ago is facing winding up proceedings in the High Court.

Shannon Minerals, the family business of former world champion athlete Frank O'Mara, is to face the proceedings later this month.

The petition is being brought by slimming firm Unislim, whose director Fiona Gratzer filed an affidavit with the court last month.

Shannon Minerals has been a major supplier of water and soft drinks to international retailers. However, the Limerick-based company courted controversy in late 2008 when water supplied to Superquinn, Lidl and Aldi was removed from shelves after tests raised concerns over hygiene standards.

The withdrawal happened after coliform and pseudomona bacteria were discovered in a number of batches of water.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) faced criticism at the time for failing to make details of the withdrawal public.The matter only emerged after memos were leaked to the Irish Independent.

Some of the water had already been sold to the public before the water was withdrawn, but Shannon Minerals insisted the products posed no risk to consumer health.

The matter led to a war of words with the FSAI, with the company stating new testing of criteria -- which it had not been informed of -- had been applied to the tests that led to the withdrawal.

This claim was disputed by the FSAI.

Operations at the company's plant were suspended until the cause of the contamination was identified and remedial action taken.

Mould

Another brand of water supplied to Lidl was also taken off supermarket shelves the previous January after two batches were found to contain mould.

Unislim declined to comment on the upcoming petition, which is due to be heard at the High Court on September 22.

A public notice issued by Unislim simply said they were creditors of Shannon Minerals, but did not give any details of what was owed.

Calls to Shannon Minerals went unanswered yesterday and a public relations firm representing the company was not in a position to comment.

As well as bottled water, the company has previously developed other drinks products, including a bottled drink that the firm claimed aided weight loss.

Its last filed accounts, for the year ended June 30, 2007, showed an operating loss of just over €1m. Mr O'Mara, who now lives in the USA, is a two-time world indoor champion at 3,000 metres. He remains a director of the company along with members of his family.

Irish Independent

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