The company at the centre of the frozen chicken controversy says it does "rework" birds for human consumption, but has never supplied them to supermarket chains.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Supreme Poultry did not say where the reworked birds were in fact sold.
It also announced that it was taking legal action against former employee Johan Matthee, the source of front-page claims published in Rapport on Sunday.
According to the report the company was allegedly thawing, washing, injecting, rebranding, then reselling the chickens with new expiry dates to outlets such as Pick n Pay and Shoprite Checkers.
"Supreme confirms that no reworked product has ever been supplied into the food service or retail sectors, which include Pick n Pay and Shoprite Checkers under their own brand names, as well as the Supreme brand," the company said on Tuesday.
"Re-working at Supreme Poultry occurs on a limited scale, and is conducted in accordance with the protocols as dictated by the department of agriculture.
"The product may be used for specified purposes after re-working, including human consumption, animal consumption and rendering."
It said there were strict quality controls, including an initial bacterial inspection.
"The product is then re-processed through the frozen production cycle and repacked exclusively into a plain or Supa Value bag, and date coded for traceability.
"Any product found not to be of standard and fit for human consumption is immediately discarded to rendering for the production of carcass meal."
Supreme said claims of illegal reworking had been the "malicious" work of Matthee, whose services had been recently terminated on the grounds of alleged sexual harassment.
Legal action was being taken against him, not only for making false claims but also for causing deliberate damage to the company names and brands with the Country Bird Holdings group, of which Supreme is a subsidiary.
On Monday, Pick n Pay said it was completely satisfied that no chickens sold to Pick n Pay had or would ever be refrozen and remarked with new expiry dates.
Company representatives had paid a surprise visit to Supreme and found no evidence to back up the allegations.
- (Sapa, Health24, 21 December 2010)
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