UK program Dispatches investigated the supermarket supply chain across the country in its latest episode The Real Price of Cheap Food.
HoneyTop - a large private label bakery supplier - was part of the investigation. The undercover documentary showed a blocked fire exit and obscured fire exit signs. It also revealed the workers were not given any safety training, ear protectors or hard hats, with one worker clambering onto a conveyor belt and climbing into a machine to keep the production lines going. When asked if it's safe a worked said: "No, no it's not, but if we don't do it no one else will. It'll just be like that forever."
In response to the documentary, a Honeytop’s spokesperson told BakeryandSnacks.com:“A thorough investigation has been carried out into the misleading and speculative claims made by Dispatches. Our position is and always has been that we take our responsibilities for the health and safety of our employees, customers and consumers very seriously and take pride in producing the highest quality foods, in a safe and hygienic working environment, operating at the highest national and international standards.
"As part of our best practice approach we are also committed to ongoing training for all employees within our continuous improvement agenda.”
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said it had taken immediate action. A FSA spokesperson said:“The Food Standards Agency will pass the details to the relevant local authority responsible for enforcing controls in this type of premises, and will ask them to follow-up with the business to ensure they are complying with food hygiene regulations.
“We have only found out about it, but it’s imminent. We take those allegations very seriously and we worked very hard to pass this to the local authorities as quickly as possible.”
Wrapped it up
Honeytop Speciality Foods supplies all major UK supermarkets with pizza bases, naan breads and tortilla wraps, with its factory in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
Shortly after this publication spoke with the FSA, the Bedforshire City Council confirmed that it had been contacted by FSA and already had taken steps. “In relation to food hygiene we have already visited and addressed the matter with the business.”
Asked if it was safe to clamber onto equipment after observing one worker doing so, another employee told the Channel 4 undercover reporter: “No, no, it’s not – but if we don’t do it, no-one else will. It’ll just be like that forever”
Back in 2012 the company was fined £9,000 following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.