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Lidl alerted to paint thinner in gravy ‘two weeks before warning public'

The Independent logo The Independent 19/12/2016 Katie Forster

Lidl was alerted to the harmful effects of a paint thinner chemical found in its gravy granules more than two weeks before it issued a public recall, The Independent can reveal.

The supermarket has recalled two batches of Kania Gravy Granules found to contain xylene, which occurs naturally in petroleum and crude oil, said the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

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Eugene Vatsaloo, from Tonyrefail in south Wales, said he and his family had suffered stomach cramps, headaches, dizziness and breathing difficulties shortly after eating the gravy with their dinner on 29 November.

Exposure to xylene poses a health risk, causing irritation of the mouth, throat, nose and lungs and in severe cases leading to heart problems, liver and kidney damage and coma, according to Public Health England.

Mr Vatsaloo told The Independent his wife had mentioned a chemical smell while cooking the meal, but thought it was the saucepan handle burning.

“I put lots of salt and pepper on mine. I was fairly hungry as I'd been working all day. The others said they didn't like the taste of it and stopped eating it,” he said.

The whole family – along with their three French bulldogs, who had eaten the children’s leftovers – quickly became unwell, with his two children aged 15 and 20 experiencing headaches and burning and blisters in their throat.

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“I had a real bad back pain as well as passing blood for two days,” said the DJ. “The doctor told me the bleeding was from burning in the stomach.”

“I waited five or six days before I saw the doctor, as I thought I had food poisoning and it took two days to get an appointment. Had I known, I would have gone to A&E straight away.”

Mr Vatsaloo, a DJ, informed Lidl and environmental health authorities of a possible contamination on 2 December when the family became concerned about the granules’ noxious smell after opening the packet again a few days later.

In emails seen by The Independent, the supermarket acknowledged the complaint and said the matter had been passed on to the Quality Assurance Department.

However, according to Mr Vatsaloo, more than two weeks later he had still not had any information from Lidl on what might have caused his symptoms.

He said Mya, one of his three dogs who had not vomited after consuming the gravy, was still critically ill and her treatment had been delayed from the alleged lack of information provided by the supermarket.

“[Mya] never goes to the toilet in the house, and there was a pool of blood on the floor in my bedroom,” he said.

“I rang [Lidl] every day, saying 'can you tell me what it is'. I sought medical attention and took my dog to the vets. They said I needed to find out what it was from the manufacturer.”

“My dog is still passing blood. The vet said it was caused by caustic burning in the colon. I'm sure she's got kidney damage, she's got to go back tomorrow. We're worried sick about her.

“I've been living this nightmare for the last 17 days, I want to know what I've eaten and what my dog has eaten. Is she going to be ok? Obviously she's not going to be ok.”

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A Lidl spokesperson told The Independent an investigation was launched as soon as they were made aware of the situation and they had announced the public recall yesterday, having been in consultation with the FSA.

“A recall notice has been issued in all stores advising customers not to consume any Kania Gravy Granules with a best before date of October 2017 and November 2017 only,” they said.

“If a customer has consumed this product we would urge them to seek medical advice. We are taking the issue very seriously and are working closely with our supplier to identify the cause.“

The supermarket said it had issued its own recall notice in its 640 UK stores as a precaution on 5 December, but had not released details of the suspected contamination until it had been confirmed by laboratory analysis.

The spokesperson said the customer service team had been in “ongoing contact with the customer and requested further information in order for our quality assurance team to carry out a full and thorough investigation."

Kirsta Horsman, from Welling in Kent, told The Independent she had also experienced persistent headaches and an upset stomachafter eating the gravy granules bought from Lidl.

She said her nine-year-old daughter had suffered a dizzy spell on the way to school for the first time.

"We've been eating these granules on and off for a month," she said. "It was only after seeing the news that I thought, 'oh, that's why I've not been feeling well".

A notice issued by the supermarket said the products affected were 300g packets of Kania Gravy Granules for meat and for chicken with best before dates of October and November 2017.

Other Kania products are not affected by the recall.

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