The storing and handling procedures at one of the biggest suppliers of chicken in Australia has been called into question, with the exposure of images showing cockroaches, maggots and raw chicken strewn across a Victorian processing plant.
The images, supplied to The Sydney Morning Herald, have highlighted safety concerns at the large Baiada Poultry plant in Laverton North.
Over 200 images and videos were taken inside the plant, showing uncovered raw chicken placed on top of plastic bags filled with chicken and cockroaches in storage containers.
There footage also shows maggots inside the plant.
The images and video were taken by workers at the factory, as part of their fight for better working conditions.
The workers began striking over the unsafe working practices and pay earlier this year, and the industrial action is still continuing.
In September, it was revealed that Baiada, along with La Iconica Suupliers, Turi Foods and Barttner enterprises are being taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over the housing conditions of chickens.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking a chicken supplier to the Federal Court, claiming they wrongly advertised chickens as free range.
The ACCC has alleges the Steggles chicken suppliers and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation were misleading or deceptive in the promotion and supply of chicken products.
The ACCC says the impression that Steggles chickens are raised in barns with plenty of room to roam freely used in the advertisement and promotion greatly influence consumers.
It says Baiada Poultry and Barttner Enerprises made the misleading claims in print advertising and product packaging.
Baiada is also a main supplier to Coles in Victoria as well as KFC, Aldi and Woolworths.
Jason Aldworth, a company spokesperson, told the Herald the photos may not be showing the real circumstances in the plant.
He said the incident ”appears they have been staged” to add to the industrial action fight.
”We believe that they are being used by the union to misrepresent to the public the facility, in order to put pressure on the company to give in to their demands.”
He said no Baiada’s products were coming from the plant in question, and are instead being sourced from other locations approved by food authorities.
”We wish to make it clear that the boxes marked ‘Coles’ [in the images] are not in fact products ever destined for Coles, but are in fact ingredients sourced for the production of product,” Aldworth said.
Coles spokesman, Jim Cooper, said the supermarket giant is ”comfortable” with Baiada’s statement and claims of inappropriate actions should be reported to authorities.
Today is the 12th day workers have picketed and blockaded at the site, calling for more police intervention following a Supreme court win against the National Union of Workers and union staff.
Almost half the staff at Laverton North are employed as contractors, cash-in-hand workers or from labour hire firms.
Some are paid below minimum wage.
Baiada rejects the claims, but has signed statements by former and current workers alleging cash in hand workers are paid as little as $8 an hour.
One man told the Herald he was paid every Friday in cash, did not get superannuation and worked with about 50 paid the same.
Image: The Sydney Morning Herald.