Kerry Foods says food labelling is a 'broader industry question'
Kerry Foods has responded to claims it is misleading customers with information on packaging of a meat product produced in its Shillelagh plant.
The issue arose last week following concern raised by respected food writer Katy McGuinness that Denny sliced chicken is not 'Made in Wicklow' as its labelling indicates.
The Denny meat product is processed and packaged in the South Wicklow plant but it was later confirmed that the meat used is imported from a number of EU countries.
Initial reports that suppliers in Brazil were used, were later clarified by the company which employs some 750 staff in Wicklow.
A statement from Kerry Foods said that Denny 'only use industry trusted EU suppliers' including some in the UK and Northern Ireland.
'Each supplier meets our strict quality criteria and we regularly audit every supplier to ensure the highest standards of quality. Our packaging fully complies with the strict EU labelling regulations. The 'Made in Wicklow' claim refers to the product being cooked, cooled, sliced, packaged and labelled in Co. Wicklow. Our Denny Chicken is fully prepared and packaged on our Shillelagh site,' the statement outlined.
A company spokesperson added that the issue of whether such labelling is misleading is a 'broader industry question'.
Meanwhile, the IFA has entered the debate and has called on Kerry Foods to support Irish produced chicken.
IFA Poultry Chairman Andy Boylan this week said Irish consumers feel misled by a brand that they have loyalty to.
'Kerry Foods has failed to show the same support for locally-produced Bord Bia Quality Assured chicken,' said as he called on Irish MEPs and the EU Commissioner for Agriculture to ensure that this issue is highlighted and addressed as a matter of urgency at EU legislative level.
IFA want the country-of-origin of the primary source of meat used in prepared foods such as this Denny product to be clearly stated on the packaging to stop misleading Irish consumers who thought they were buying locally-produced food.
'This loophole in the current labelling legislation that Kerry Foods are exploiting to mislead consumers reinforces the importance of trusting the Bord Bia Quality Assurance label,' Mr Boylan added.
IFA has requested a meeting with Kerry Foods to highlight the grievances felt by Irish poultry producers.
'Poultry farmers have had their margins squeezed with all inputs increasing by 15-30% in the past two years. They need an increase to cover their costs, and don't want to see an Irish food company, Kerry Foods, and their brand Denny which is perceived as an Irish brand, using imported product,' Mr Boylan said.