The storage depot at the centre of the KFC chicken crisis had not been registered or inspected before problems emerged this week, and could have been closed down for breaching safety rules, a local council has revealed.
Hundreds of KFC outlets remain closed as the fast food chain tries to recover from a disastrous start to a new delivery contract. On Tuesday night KFC said delivery drivers had been working around the clock in an effort to ensure that all the affected stores could reopen by the end of the week.
DHL, the firm that took over KFC deliveries last week, has been storing all KFC chicken at a single unregistered cold storage warehouse in Rugby, the local council confirmed on Wednesday.
KFC said some poultry at the depot would have to be destroyed.
A spokeswoman for Rugby borough council, which is responsible for food and environmental health standards in the area, said the council had not known the building was being used to store fresh chicken until reading about it in the media.
She said the council could have closed the warehouse because it companies were legally required to register cold-storage facilities.
“Council inspectors visited the depot on Tuesday because they were not aware it was operating as a cold storage depot,” she said. “We could have served a remedial action notice to stop them operating until the conditional approval had been obtained, but we did not consider that this would have been in the public interest.”
In a statement, the council added: “There is no requirement for the DHL cold-storage facility to be licensed, but it does need to be registered. We have now received the relevant documentation and expect to be able to approve the registration in the next few days.”
A KFC spokeswoman said it was trying to minimise waste at the depot but “nothing will leave for delivery or be served at our restaurants that doesn’t meet our incredibly high standards. At this stage, we don’t know [how much chicken will be destroyed], but we are doing everything we can to avoid wastage.”
Rugby council’s statement said inspectors were satisfied with DHL’s food safety processes, including temperature control, date coding, food handling and associated record-keeping. “They didn’t observe any out-of-date chicken or other foods.”
The GMB union warned KFC last October that it would face supply problems when it decided to switch its deliveries from Bidvest Logistics to DHL.
Mick Rix, the GMB’s national officer, said he told KFC that it could face a repeat of supply problems that had hit Burger King when it dropped Bidvest Logistics in favour of DHL six years ago.
At the height of the current crisis, more than 640 KFC outlets were closed because of the shortage of chicken. The latest update showed 272 stores across the UK and Ireland remained closed on Wednesday afternoon.
In a statement, KFC said: “Our teams continue to work flat out all hours to clear the backlog caused by the breakdown in the DHL distribution system.
“We still expect the disruption to some restaurants to continue over the remainder of the week which means some will not be open and others will operate with a reduced menu or shortened hours.”
The consumer backlash against KFC prompted police to urge people in Tower Hamlets, east London, and Whitefield, Greater Manchester, not to waste officers’ time complaining about the closures.
Bidvest distanced itself from the crisis, saying all the problems had occurred since DHL took over deliveries.