FOOD store bosses have apologised to a grandmother who went to cook a roast-in-the-bag chicken – only to find it stuffed with an excrement-like substance.

Marjorie Pearson was appalled to discover unpleasant matter in the cavity of the bird as she set about preparing a roast dinner for her family.

The offending bird had been purchased at the Marks and Spencer store in Northgate, Darlington.

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The family usually shops at the company’s Teesside Park outlet, but Mrs Pearson’s husband Geoff had shopped at the Darlington store as his wife was ill.

Mrs Pearson, 64, from Darlington, said she only noticed that the chicken was in such a state because the bag it was due to be roasted in snagged on her oven door as she went to put it in.

She said: “It was absolutely horrible, you can only imagine how shocked I first saw it; I felt sick and could not quite believe it.”

Mrs Pearson was going to share the chicken dinner with her husband and grandson Dan, 21.

She added: “Imagine how ill it would have made us if we had actually eaten it. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Mrs Pearson raised the issue with the company’s customer services department and was offered a £20 voucher, along with a full refund, as an apology for the unpleasant experience.

But she feels this offer is inadequate and has rejected it.

An email sent to Mrs Pearson from the M&S retail customers services team, described the substance found in the chicken as ‘crop material’.

It also apologised for the ‘unpleasant experience’.

The email reads: “The crop is normally empty on arrival, as the birds are usually given a sufficient period of time in which to digest the feed.

"Some birds may occasionally eat stray feed prior to catching.

"The crop is a muscular thin walled part of the bird/digestive alimentary tract.

"This compartment is used by the birds to store the food prior to transferring the food in the proventriculus, which is the first of the two stomachs that a bird has.

"The food is stored here as it begins to be processed and then further transferred to the gizzard, which is the muscular stomach that is the one that grinds the food, depending on what the bird is eating during its life.

“We take the health and safety of our customers very seriously.

“Our suppliers take the utmost care to ensure their products reach our customers in the best possible condition, and the high standards we would expect.

“All the produce is checked at each stage of the process by trained quality technicians.

“However, something has been missed on this occasion and our suppliers share our concern.”

A subsequent email to Mrs Pearson said the £20 voucher offer is ‘fair and consistent’ for a complaint of this nature.

Despite the ordeal, Mrs Pearson said she will continue to shop at M&S, but will stick to the Teesside Park store in future – and give chickens a wide berth.

An M&S spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear about our customer’s complaint. We take queries of this nature very seriously.

"We have a comprehensive monitoring process in place at all our suppliers and work hard to ensure our food is produced to our high quality standards.

"We are working closely with our supplier to investigate.”