An official statement has been issued in the controversy surrounding the collapse of Hebridean Sea Salt in Lochs.
This statement was circulated by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to councillors this evening but was issued by the national agency, Food Standards Scotland.
This followed allegations made to national newspapers by the company’s founder Natalie Crayton in which she blamed the Council for being heavy-handed and claims made by her to welovestornoway.com about the behaviour of officials at Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
She also made further claims on a Linked-In account that has subsequently been deleted.
Food Standards Scotland said: “Western Isles Council is the lead in the Hebridean Sea Salt investigation and Food Standards Scotland has a supporting role.
“We would not normally disclose the details of an active and ongoing investigation.
“However, given the coverage of this case, we believe it is now in the public interest to disclose the issues that are under investigation.
“This is not simply a case of mislabelling.
“Investigations discovered that over 80% of the salt found in Hebridean Sea Salt did not originate in the Hebrides, but was imported table salt.
“It is Food Standards Scotland’s view that, whilst this is not a food safety issue, deception of consumers on this scale is not acceptable and could damage Scotland’s well-deserved reputation for high quality, authentic food and drink products. “
This confirmed widespread local rumours and off-the-record briefings by agencies involved.
Earlier in an article in The Herald newspaper, Natalie Crayon – described as the founder of one of Scotland’s best known artisan food brands - said she blamed the “bully-boy tactics” of Food Standards Scotland for the collapse of her business.
Crayton, 35,set up Hebridean Sea Salt six years ago with backing from the local Business Gateway and the Prince’s Trust, confirmed her business has closed as she is no longer able to trade due to the ongoing investigation into addition of non-Hebridean crystals into the product.
Ms Crayton alleges that in January this year, she was forced to hand over her entire stock of product to environmental health and FSS officers who arrived at her premises without warning.
This followed accusations she was adding foreign salt crystals to her hand-harvested sea salt thereby questioning its claim to have “nothing added” as indicated on the label.
Ms Crayton, a single mother of three young children who was born in Edinburgh and studied marine biology at Aberdeen University, said: “I would like to put the record straight because there is so much misinformation being put out there.
“This is not a food safety issue. It is a labelling issue, which had been resolved. “The salt I added is pure food-grade sea salt with no additives.”
She claims the addition of sea salt crystals to local sea water when it is drying out, which she has been doing for 18 months, is called ‘seeding’ and is common practice among high-end brands and that she had declared it in SALSA food safety audits.
Her sea salt had won a Gold Star in the Guild of Fine Foods’ Great Taste Awards and has been used by Michelin star chefs including Andrew Fairlie and is sold in supermarkets across the UK.
Communicating with editor Fred Silver at welovestornoway.com this morning she confirmed that she had ceased trading and blamed the attitude and lack of support from staff at Highlands and Islands Enterprise for the crisis.
This contact was via LinkedIn and the account under her name that has been in use for years, was deleted during the day. There is now a new Natalie Crayton account on LinkedIn which says she is Managing Director at the Salmon Jerky Company of Edinburgh. This was incorporated on November 24, 2016, with a registered office at Unit 1 Habost, Lochs, Isle of Lewis. This is also the registered office of Hebridean Sea Salt Company.