Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Tuesday, 17 January 2017
Revised: 26 January 2017

Paint thinners found in gravy powder

Lidl hides poison food warning from shoppers
Slough families at serious risk
25 January: Lidl removes product recall notice

Reporter Paul Janik : Photographs Sahida Khan & Jas Singh

One of Slough's biggest supermarkets is criticised for covering-up a safety alert - putting hundreds of local families at risk of agonising food poisoning or worse.

Lidl in Farnham Road has hidden away a product recall notice telling shoppers that some gravy it sold is dangerous, it must not be used and should be returned for a full refund, an exclusive Slough Times investigation has revealed.

On 25 January a Slough Times assistant discovered Lidl had removed the only Product Recall Notice from its Farnham Road store (picture g3194 below).

The poisonous gravy vanishes but product recall safety notices still missing.

The Poison Gravy Alert

A Welsh father's claims he and his family had suffered stomach cramps, headaches, dizziness and breathing difficulties shortly after eating the gravy with their dinner on 29 November were reported in The Independent newspaper on 18 December 2016.

The family's health scare happened almost 3 weeks before the English Food Standards Agency issued their Product Recall Notice on 17 December 2016.

According to The Independent Lidl knew of the food poisoning dangers and the urgent need to stop the public consuming the harmful gravy powder on Thursday, 5 December 2016 almost 2 weeks before the government issued a public safety alert.

The dangerous products are:
Kania Gravy Granules for Meat
Kania Gravy Granules for Chicken

All batches stamped

On Monday 2 January 2017, Slough Times investigators asked customers at Lidl's Farnham Road store, Slough, if they knew anything about the poisonous gravy. None of the 23 customers asked knew anything and none had seen any safety notice or any notice about gravy exhibited within the store or at the store's entrance.

Our store inspection revealed:

  • No posters by the gravy products,
  • No posters outside the store,
  • No posters at the store's entrance,
  • No posters in any location customers would notice and read.

More searching, which never should be necessary when the public's health and safety are at risk, discovered Lidl had placed one small A4 poster on an internal wall just inside the exit doors, after the check-outs.

Lidl's only warning poster where shoppers will not notice it

...... and now the only Product Recall Notice has vanished

Lidl knew its customers, pushing trolleys or carrying bags of shopping, always look straight ahead hoping the automatic doors will open before they reach them. Occasionally shoppers might casually glance to their right and look into the carpark. No one looks to the left - and that is exactly where Lidl placed its single safety warning.

Lidl's danger notice is too far away from customers leaving the store. It is never noticed. Even if shoppers saw something on the wall, Lidl's bland and pathetic poster has nothing on it to attract people's attention; nothing on it to alert the public to a health and safety warning of a poisonous food product they might have brought.

The Slough Times has asked Lidl for a statement. Despite one telephone call and two emails, Lidl UK GmbH (registered in Germany) remains silent - too embarrassed to comment perhaps ?

This worrying incident demonstrates that Lidl does not routinely check and analysis the food it sells to customers. Where was "due diligence" - on holiday

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Slough Times rang Lidl's press office again. We asked about the placement of the gravy recall notices. Lidl did not ask us for our identity or for our contact details. Lidl repeatedly told us they would get one of their PR Managers to contact us.

Food Standards Agency

England has its own Food Standards Agency, shared with Wales. There is no UK national watchdog ensuring all parts of the UK share the same high food safety standards.

The Food Standards Agency's web site declared, about the Lidl gravy:

Exposure to xylene in food products represents a health risk as it can cause adverse effects such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

The contaminant levels in this product exceed those set to minimise this risk and the product is therefore being recalled as a precaution.

A Food Standards Agency spokeswoman told the Slough Times:

The current European and UK legal requirements relating to the communication of food recalls to the public are fairly general, requiring food businesses to "effectively and accurately inform the consumer of the reasons for the withdrawal or recall.

We asked if the FSA imposes on retailers leaflet placement and wording requirements, including size of lettering.

No, this is not a FSA requirement. We are, however, aware that improvements can be made to the current recall process, and as a result have jointly with FSS (Food Standards Scotland) initiated a project to review the efficacy of the current recall arrangements in the food recall sector.

The aim of this is to initiate improvements where necessary to ensure that consumers are protected from food that is unsafe or not what it says it is, empowering people to make choices, based on the facts.

We enquired whether the FSA has an opinion of the advisability of retailers exhibiting leaflets up to products' "best before" or expiry dates:

Not currently, however we are commissioning research to give us a greater insight into how enforcement authorities (such as local authorities) and food businesses are engaged in the recall process, as well as consumer awareness, understanding and behaviours when food is recalled.

This includes understanding how food businesses communicate with consumers both in the UK and other countries. We expect to begin carrying forward the recommended changes during the summer of 2017.

Lidl takes 17 days to test the gravy

On Tuesday, 24 January 2017, a second Food Standards Agency spokeswomen advised:

We were notified by Lidl on 30 November 2016 that it had removed from sale two batches of Kania Gravy Granules (Meat and Chicken), on a precautionary basis following complaints of a chemical taint.

Lidl advised the FSA on first notification that it was treating the matter as a quality issue, and there was no suggestion that the product represented a risk to public safety. The FSA subsequently received testing results from Lidl on 16 December that indicated the presence of xylene.

Xylene is a depressor of the central nervous system and adverse effects such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting can occur following inhalation exposures and gastrointestinal irritation, nausea and vomiting following oral exposures. These effects are likely to be short term and reversible on cessation of exposure.

It is possible that some high intake consumers of the affected product, experienced short term reversible adverse effects, consistent with those reported with xylene. There would be no long term health consequences from these short term exposures to xylene.

Slough Unitary Authority

We asked Slough Council's press office:

On what date did SUA become aware of the Food Standards Agency's product recall notice about Lidl's gravy ?

What actions, if any, has SUA taken and on what dates ?

We await the council's response.

Readers' comments

Lidl TOXIC gravy - recall notice

I saw a story about this in the news a few weeks ago and became aware of an issue with Lidl Gravy Granules however I have not seen any notices about this gravy in the Farnham Road store. I am always carrying a lot of heavy bags or pushing a trolley on my way to the exit and do not look left so there is no chance for me to have noticed the sign. The should put their notice by the till, the Granules area and where they have other notices.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

multi-billion pound firm refusing to comment... presumably because top directors are earning so much money on the firm's gravy train...

Sunday, 22 January 2017