Shaheen Unis firm facing food safety investigation

A SCOTTISH firm which supplies Indian pre-packaged food to major supermarkets is facing action from food safety inspectors over manufacturing procedures at its Edinburgh factory.

Mrs Unis has become one of Scotlands most successful businesswomen. Picture: Tony Marsh

Teams of officers from Edinburgh Council have made multiple visits to the manufacturing facility of the Mrs Unis food brand over the past two weeks and are expected to take disciplinary action against the firm within the next ten days.

Earlier this year, a range of pre-prepared products from the Mrs Unis brand were recalled amid concerns over the factory’s procedures to control Clostridium botulinum, the bug which causes botulism.

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The council is believed to have been contacted by a whistleblower over allegations that products were “bulked out” with foods which were not declared on the label.

The presence of any ingredient not declared on the label creates a risk for someone who may have an allergy to that food, potentially making them ill if they eat it unwittingly.

It is believed that ongoing problems with the company’s manufacturing procedures and controls are also being investigated by inspectors.

The firm, headed by Shaheen Unis, dubbed “Scotland’s curry queen”, makes Indian snacks including pakoras, bhajis and samosas for the retail, catering and wholesale market, supplying them to major retailers including Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Council said: “We take all complaints of this nature extremely seriously and are currently investigating them.”

In March, a range of Mrs Unis products, including six different types of pakora, were recalled by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which said that there was “not enough evidence” to show that the foods were safe to eat. The FSA warned that the process controls at the company’s factory at the Peffermill industrial estate were not effective in their ability to prevent the growth and toxin production of Clostridium botulinum.

The recall applied to products which included packs of chicken pakora bites, chicken pakora strips and chicken tikka bites, as well as haggis, onion and vegetable pakoras. They had specific sell-by dates and were believed to have been made in the factory at a time when controls were not sufficient to prevent the production of the dangerous bacteria.

Now one of Scotland’s most successful businesswomen, Mrs Unis came to Britain as a young bride from Pakistan in 1967 and has gone on to win a number of awards and honours for her business ventures including an honorary degree from Queen Margaret University .

She and her husband opened their first restaurant, Babar, in Edinburgh’s Tollcross area in 1974 and in 1999 launched the city’s first purpose-built factory of authentic Asian food products.

Ten years ago, a fire destroyed the original factory and the business has since been rebuilt. Mrs Unis, who is well known in the Asian community in Edinburgh and is one of the founders of multi-cultural festival, the Edinburgh Mela, remains at the head of the firm.

The council’s food safety inspectors have a range of measures within their powers including issuing a caution, referring a company to a sheriff for criminal action and shutting down a manufacturing plant.

Ian Daglish, who is a director at the company, refused to comment.