Interim examiner appointed to Metron Stores Limited, operator of Iceland Ireland
Ross Gorman Bl - representing Metron - said the company had decided to seek the protection of the courts due to issues including the decision by the FSAI to serve a recall notice on it
22 June 2023
Iceland Ireland has been generating headlines for unenviable reasons this week, after a number of stores failed to open for business yesterday morning. It’s understood that three stores in Dublin – Talbot Street, Coolock and Northside Shopping Centre – suddenly shut. Staff were reported to have turned up for work and were understandably shocked to find the stores closed.
Employees at Iceland Coolock in north Dublin subsequently began occupying the premises in protest, as the Irish Independent reports here.
On Tuesday, the High Court appointed an interim examiner to Metron Stores Limited, the company that operates the Iceland chain of grocery stores in Ireland.
The court heard that Metron had found itself in difficulty owing to a number of reasons. These included a recent order served on it by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland requiring it to withdraw all imported frozen food of animal origin from its stores, as well as that the business is insolvent and unable to pay estimated debts of €36 million as they fall due.
However, an independent Experts Report (IER) said the company has a reasonable prospect of survival if certain steps, including the appointment of an examiner, are taken. Chartered accountant and insolvency expert Joseph Walsh was subsequently appointed as an interim examiner to Metron Stores, which operates 26 Iceland stores in the Republic of Ireland and employs over 344 people.
Petitioning the court for Walsh’s appointment, Ross Gorman Bl – representing Metron – said that it had decided to seek the protection of the courts due to issues including the decision by the FSAI, announced on Thursday 15 June, to serve a recall notice on it, for the immediate withdrawal of all imported frozen foods of animal origin from all its stores brought into Ireland since 3 March 2023.
In addition, the FSAI said it was directing the company to recall the implicated product from consumers.
As a precaution, the FSAI said it was advising consumers not to eat any imported frozen food of animal origin bought from Iceland Ireland stores since 3 March 2023.
The authority stated the enforcement action was due to a number of identified breaches of food legislation and an ongoing investigation.
According to the FSAI, the reasons for serving the notice included inadequate evidence of traceability of imported frozen food of animal origin in Metron Stores Limited (trading as Iceland Ireland). The authority also stated there had been a number of incidents of non-compliance with import control legislation in relation to frozen foods of animal origin. Some frozen food of animal origin had been imported into Ireland without pre-notification and completion of entry declarations and health certificates since 3 March 2023.
The FSAI reported last week that discussions with the company had taken place and the investigation involved the FSAI; the Environmental Health Service of the Health Service Executive; the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority.
“To date, while we have no reports of any illness associated with implicated products from Iceland Ireland stores, in the absence of the company providing valid and correct traceability documentation as required by the law, we have to take a precautionary approach to best protect consumers, as we cannot be fully confident of the traceability and safety of these imported frozen foods of animal origin,” said Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, FSAI.
The FSAI said the action is part of an ongoing investigation following identification by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Border Control Post officials, in collaboration with Revenue Customs, of undeclared frozen food of animal origin with no accompanying documentation for goods being imported by Metron Stores Limited.
This led to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine detaining consignments and issuing an import control notice to return them to Great Britain or destroy them. Officials at Dublin Port had continued to assess the detained consignments to determine compliance with legal requirements and import controls.
As part of the investigation, the FSAI said it had informed the European Commission, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) UK, Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland, and Food Standards Scotland and that it was sharing relevant information to support the investigation.