Mrs Unis brand recalled over botulism fears

Owner Shaheen Unis. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Owner Shaheen Unis. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A range of pre-prepared Indian foods from the Mrs Unis brand have been recalled by the Food Standards Agency following concerns over the Edinburgh-based company’s procedures to control Clostridium botulinum - the bug which causes botulism.

The brand, headed by veteran businesswoman Shaheen Unis, dubbed “Scotland’s curry queen”, was ordered to withdraw a range of ‘atmosphere packed’ products - including six different tyypes of pakora - from sale as a “precautionary measure”. The FSA said that there was “not enough evidence” to show that the products are safe to eat, warning that the process controls at the company’s factory at the Peffermill industrial estate, which provides foods for the retail, catering and wholesale market, were not effective in their ability to prevent the growth and toxin production of the bacterium.

“The effectiveness of process controls that could potentially affect the safety of modified atmosphere packed products produced by Mrs Unis Spicy Foods cannot be demonstrated satisfactorily,” said The FSA. “The issue relates to ensuring sufficient controlling factors to prevent the growth and toxin production of the bacterium known as Clostridium botulinum. This may cause a serious form of food poisoning called botulism. There is not enough evidence to show that the products are safe. This means the company is recalling batches of its products as a precautionary measure.”

Packs of Chicken Pakora Bites, Chicken Pakora Strips and Chicken Tikka Bites, with a ‘use by’ date of 24 March have been recalled, along with Haggis, Onion and Vegetable Pakoras - as well as Onion Bhajis - with the same date. A further three products - a pack of six Vegetable Pakora, six Mini Onion Bhajees and a Snack Pack - all with the use by date of 8 April 2015 are also being recalled.

The FSA added: “Mrs Unis Spicy Foods has recalled all affected batches. Point-of-sale notices are being produced for businesses supplied with affected batches. No other Mrs Unis Spicy Foods products are known to be affected. Consumers are advised not to consume these products. Instead, any product should be returned to the store from where it was bought or should be disposed.”

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. She and her husband opened their first restaurant, Babar, in Tollcross in 1974 and in 1999 launched Edinburgh’s first purpose-built factory of authentic Asian food products. Ten years ago, a fire destroyed the original factory.

Ian Daglish, spokesman for Mrs Unis, said the company had since reduced sell-by dates on the products to ten days from around 15 days as a precaution to ensure that bacteria is not allowed to grow. “When producing food for the public domain, you have to be very careful,” he said. “So we are being cautious in recalling these products.”