UCB sues conveyor belt makers for £6.8m

United Central Bakeries (UCB) has taken legal action against two machinery manufacturers after a fire set alight a heatproof conveyor belt in 2006.

The firm is suing Spooner Industries Ltd, which designed and fitted the conveyor, and belt provider Forbo Siegling (UK), for £6.8m.

The fire was cause by a freshly-cooked naan bread, which set fire to the thermoplastic belt in November 2006, and consequently burnt down a third of UCB’s production site on Whitehill Industrial Estate in Bathgate.

Around £5m was spent on refurbishments by Finsbury Food Group, owners of the UCB business.

Archy Cunningham, managing director at UCB, told British Baker that he was unable to comment on details of the current court case and that a date for the next court hearing was pending.

At a recent hearing, the Court of Session in Edinburgh heard information on how UCB’s naan breads are cooked. The firm said its bakery heats dough sprayed with rapeseed oil at a temperature of 450C in order for them to cook, which can result in fires.

Two fires occurred in the UCB factory back in 2001 and 2003 caused by naan bread production. The firm has invested in a fire suppression system and heliveyor to try and minimise the risk of a blaze in the future.

UCB hired Spooner Industries in 2003 to replace an existing conveyor belt, but the bakery firm expressed concerns over its fire-proof properties with some managers stating it would “ignite on contact with burning naan bread”.

According to the Edinburgh Evening News, Cunningham sent an email to Sandy Grieve of Spooner, and Dennis Jackson of Forbo, on 23 June 23 2004, which said: “Am really not happy with the supplier of this belt. The belt should be impossible to set fire to with burning naan bread.”

Jackson said in a letter that a temperature of 164C would be needed to melt the belt and said it was “very unlikely” a naan bread could achieve this.

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