Commons Committee wades into 2 Sisters poultry scandal

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/Magone
Picture: iStock/Magone

Related tags Food standards agency Meat Livestock

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is to look into allegations of food safety breaches at 2 Sisters Food Group.

The inquiry will examine the role and performance of regulatory and accreditation bodies in maintaining food standards and safety.

It will also cover potential ramifications of the allegations made against the company for the poultry sector and wider food chain.

2 Sisters processes fresh chicken for UK supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl and Marks & Spencer.

Undercover Guardian/ITV news investigation

Ranjit Singh Boparan, chief executive and owner of 2 Sisters Food Group, The Food Standards Agency (FSA), Assured Food Standards and The British Poultry Council will give evidence on 25 October.

Food hygiene and labelling concerns were raised in an ITV News/Guardian​ investigation at the 2 Sisters plant in West Bromwich.

Undercover footage appeared to show staff altering the slaughter date of poultry to extend shelf life.

FSA said it did not identify food safety issues at the site but highlighted issues requiring attention in relation to staff training and stock control.

The agency has extended its investigation to other 2 Sisters poultry plants in England and Wales.

Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA, said: “Consumers deserve food they can trust, and can be reassured that we take allegations of poor practice very seriously. Although our initial inspection found no risk to public health, we are broadening our investigations until we are satisfied that this is truly the case.”

2 Sisters temporary suspension

2 Sisters said it is subject to multiple and frequent unannounced audits from the FSA, BRC, Red Tractor, independent auditors and customers.

The firm said it was ‘shocked and distressed’ by the allegations and footage.

It has temporarily suspended operations at the site to re-train all employees on food safety and quality management systems.

“We will only recommence supply once we are satisfied that our colleagues have been appropriately retrained. We continue to work closely with the FSA and our customers throughout this period.

“We remain committed to ensuring that we operate to the highest standards of hygiene and food safety, and we act with honesty and integrity at all times.”

The British Poultry Council (BPC) said allegations were ‘serious’ and demanded ‘thorough investigation’.

“In isolated instances where things go wrong, people make poor decisions and food standards are not met, it’s crucial that the business in question moves fast to acknowledge the problem, correct the situation and put measures in place to stop it from happening again,” ​said Richard Griffiths, BPC chief executive.

“We welcome scrutiny across our supply chains as we strongly believe in openness, transparency and continuous improvement. The poultry meat industry is working together with the business and its retailers to ensure that the meat on our supermarket shelves is safe and reflects the standards that we stand for.”

No evidence to suggest Scottish plant problems

Food Standards Scotland said it has no evidence to suggest there are any concerns in the 2 Sisters poultry plant in Coupar Angus.

Ian McWatt, FSS director of operations, said: “Food Standards Scotland conducts regular – and often unannounced – inspections at abattoirs and cutting plants in Scotland to ensure that they have controls in place to maintain the highest standard of food safety.

“We last audited the Coupar Angus 2 Sisters premises in July this year and this audit showed that the plant had adequate controls in place to ensure that the poultry is being processed safely and is correctly labelled for the food chain.”

Sue Hayman MP, shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, said the firm is the largest supplier of chicken to UK supermarkets meaning the number of consumers impacted will be significant.

“It is welcome that five major food retailers are going to launch immediate investigations but the Government must do the same. Stepping back and shunting the issue on to the Food Standards Agency, as during the imported egg crisis, will not do,” ​she said.

“It is vital that the Government ensures that the highest food standards are being upheld in the UK and that consumers are presented with correct information at the point of purchase.”

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