THE planned sale of the bacon factory in Malton has raised concerns for more than 1,500 jobs.

Dutch-based food producer Vion NV has announced that it is to sell its UK food businesses, which employ 13,000 people at 38 sites in the UK.

The business said it wanted to concentrate on its core markets in the Netherlands and Germany and develop its global ingredients business.

In October, the company announced it was to close its loss-making Halls of Broxburn plant, in West Lothian, Scotland, which employs 1,700 people.

It said it was confident it would be able to sell the rest of the UK pork, red meat and poultry business units as ongoing viable businesses.

Peter Barr, chairman of Vion UK, said: “We have already started detailed discussions with a number of interested parties, including management, regarding the acquisition of the various parts of the UK business and these are progressing well.

“The level of interest in the businesses has been strong and we hope to be in a position in the near future to give further details about the progress which has been made. “The sale process will be completed in a smooth and orderly fashion to ensure business continuity for our employees, agricultural and other suppliers and our customers.”

The Malton factory, which employs about 1,570 people in Hugden Way, was taken over by Vion when it bought Grampian Country Food Group in 2008.

John Gorle, national officer of the Usdaw union, which represents workers at the plant, said: “I’m extremely concerned by Vion’s decision, which has come right out of the blue and will be a real shock for our members and all the company’s workforce.

“There will undoubtedly be questions raised about the future viability of Vion’s UK food businesses, but Usdaw is firmly of the view that these can be secured with the right management, investment and strategic approach in place.”

Peter Garbutt, chief livestock adviser for the National Farmers Union (NFU), said: “This will be of obvious concern to Vion’s poultry and livestock farmer suppliers, supermarket customers and I’m sure their staff as well.

“We have been reassured by the comments from Vion UK chairman Peter Barr and the NFU will be getting in contact with the company to better understand the potential implications for our members.”