The comments came after the GLA revoked the licence of Freedom Food (FF) member DJ Houghton Catching Services, following a police operation that freed 30 Lithuanian workers from an address in Kent and arrested two people on suspicion of human trafficking for labour exploitation. DJ Houghton was also suspended from Freedom Foods.
Noble Foods, which used to catch chickens for its egg and poultry businesses, said it had been “shocked and saddened” by the revelations, adding that it took the matter extremely seriously and was seeking assurances that any company it used was “appropriately audited”. It said it would only ever use companies approved by both the GLA and Freedom Food for this type of work.
A statement from the company said: “It is our understanding that it is exactly the role of the GLA to protect companies such as ours against poor gang master practice via their licensing system. As soon as we were made aware of the action taken by Kent police, we ceased using the organisation involved. This was approximately four weeks ago. We note their actual licence was not revoked until Monday evening this week.
“The work this organisation carried out for us has been moved to other GLA- and FF-approved suppliers. We are seeking assurances from all concerned in the approval process that any company we use is appropriately audited and approved, as we have always previously been assured.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the suppliers we use operate to the highest standards of both human and animal welfare.”
Noble Foods processes hens, chickens and broiler breeders for markets in the UK Europe, the Far East and Africa, where the Jolly’s brand is market leader in chicken leg quarters and wings. It is better-known in the UK for its egg brands, which include the Happy Egg Company, Goldenlay Omega 3, Big and Fresh, Eggs for Soldier, Gu and One Good Egg.