MOY Park production director, Eric Reid, has called on the European Union to introduce what he calls an honest food labelling policy, in the wake of growing levels of deep frozen chicken coming into the EU, which is subsequently de-frosted, treated with a range of sauces and then placed in retail chill cabinets where it can be easily perceived as fresh product.
Speaking at the announcement of John Thompson Sons Ltd's £2.5 million poultry feed compounding mill expansion in Belfast, he added that this practice is not illegal.
"But it has the potential to mislead the UK consumer who demands genuinely fresh food and is willing to pay accordingly.
"If this issue is not addressed then it has the capacity to cause considerable damage to the EU poultrymeat industry which continues to invest heavily in producing high quality fresh chicken.
Moy Park alone currently accounts for 18 per cent of the chicken produced in the EU. The business adds value 3.2 million birds per week with almost half of this throughput processed at its Dungannon plant.
"We have already raised this issue with the Commission in Brussels," added Eric Reid. "But, to date, no action has been taken to resolve the problem. It may suit European governments to have a cheap food policy. However, this is not sustainable in the long term."
He added: "European poultry producers and processers have no issue with frozen product coming on to the European Market. But masquerading it as fresh post-importation is something else altogether.
"We believe that local consumers want to know exactly what they are buying without having to read the small print on the packaging. So it is for this reason that we are now asking for the introduction of labels which clearly feature a 'date of slaughter'.
"By taking this approach, it should be possible for shoppers to clearly discern what is truly fresh food.