Tesco cuts €3m contract with Celtic Pure before arsenic recall

Retailer announced deal in May but suspended it weeks later due to ‘quality issue’

It is thought that the issue detected by Tesco is unrelated to the breach of arsenic levels in a number of Celtic Pure products, which led to a widespread recall of own-brand waters sold by some of the largest retailers in the State earlier this summer. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

It is thought that the issue detected by Tesco is unrelated to the breach of arsenic levels in a number of Celtic Pure products, which led to a widespread recall of own-brand waters sold by some of the largest retailers in the State earlier this summer. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

 

Tesco suspended a €3 million contract with the company at the centre of an arsenic product recall just weeks after announcing it, The Irish Times has learned.

The British retailer announced the deal with Celtic Pure water in May of this year, but within weeks suspended production of the product line due to “a quality issue”, the company confirmed.

It is thought that the issue detected by Tesco is unrelated to the breach of arsenic levels in a number of Celtic Pure products, which led to a widespread recall of own-brand waters sold by some of the largest retailers in the State earlier this summer.

Tesco said it had discontinued stocking the water, and that there “was, and continues to be, no risk to customer health”. The company said “our quality teams have been carrying out further investigations and we are liaising fully with the FSAI [Food Safety Authority of Ireland] on the matter”.

The deal, which was to see Celtic Pure supply Tesco’s five-litre Drumlin Hills brand, was signed only in March, and was announced amid some fanfare in May.

Unsolicited information

In a statement, Tesco said it “suspended production of its 5-litre water earlier in the summer due to a quality issue”. The Irish Times has learned that the retailer received unsolicited information about Celtic Pure in advance of the investigation which led to the emergence of the quality issue.

The circulation of unsolicited information about the company to customers and authorities has brought regulatory and commercial pressure onto the Monaghan outfit. Celtic Pure confirmed earlier this month that a former employee made a complaint to the FSAI.

Celtic Pure was raided by the FSAI, which was accompanied by gardaí, last month

Earlier this month, the company said, “[It] has been working closely with the FSAI regarding a number of unsubstantiated allegations that were made by a former employee”, which it says it “absolutely rejects”.

Celtic Pure was raided by the FSAI, which was accompanied by gardaí, last month. While the product recall notice was issued following the raid, affecting Lidl, Aldi, Dunnes and other own-brand waters, it is understood the FSAI’s unannounced inspection was into both the arsenic issue and other matters. Company and financial records were copied and taken away for further analysis by forensic accountants during the raid.

Partial closing order

Following the raid and the recall, the Health Service Executive (HSE) served a partial closing order on the water company. Celtic Pure has said the arsenic issue is “fully resolved”.

Celtic Pure is a family-run business based in Co Monaghan. It was established in 2000 and, in addition to supplying water to some of the largest retailers in the State, it is also the official water of the Football Association of Ireland. The company was recently re-registered as an unlimited company, meaning there is less financial information publicly available about it.

However, its most recently available set of accounts show accumulated profits of €3.8 million. The company’s shares are held by an offshore entity, registered in the channel island of Jersey.