Recent problems of poultry giant 2 Sisters Food Group are "not a one-off", say MPs
PUBLISHED: 09:05 17 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:34 23 November 2017
Poultry giant 2 Sisters Food Group's record is "far from pristine" and problems at its chicken plant at the centre of an inquiry are "not a one-off", MPs have concluded.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chairman Neil Parish said the inquiry should act as a “wake-up call” for all accreditation firms based on its finding that there was no systematic process for combining the various audits and assessments of the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken.
The company has factories across the country, including Thetford and Flixton, near Bungay, as well as the West Bromwich site which sparked the investigation.
The inquiry also found that Assured Food Standards, which licenses the Red Tractor quality mark, did not “immediately and especially” inform the Food Standards Agency (FSA) after it suspended 2 Sisters’s accreditation.
2 Sisters owner Ranjit Singh Boparan, who also owns turkey producer Bernard Matthews, appeared before the parliamentary committee last month as part of an inquiry following an undercover investigation by ITV News and The Guardian into standards at the firm’s West Bromwich plant.
An undercover reporter working at the site claimed to witness workers tampering with slaughter dates, mixing meat of different ages and changing source codes on crates of meat, practices that can artificially extend the product’s shelf life and make it untraceable in the event of an outbreak of food poisoning.
The evidence sessions looked at the issues raised at the 2 Sisters plant and the role and performance of the Food Standards Agency, Sandwell Metropolitan Council and accreditation bodies and also investigated the potential ramifications for the poultry sector and the wider food chain.
The report said: “The problems identified at the 2 Sisters plant at West Bromwich are not a one-off.
“The past record of the 2 Sisters Food Group is far from pristine and there are valid questions to be asked of its corporate governance structure.”
Mr Parish said: “Our inquiry should serve as a wake-up call for all accreditation firms and cause them to improve their processes and remove any loopholes that may exist, not just those discovered through our inquiry
“Food supply chains are sensitive and easy to disrupt when retailers and consumers lose confidence in food quality or safety.
“Large producers and retailers have a responsibility to protect, rather than undermine, the UK’s food producers.”
The report said Mr Boparan wrote to the committee on November 10 to confirm commitments he made during his hearing, including placing a full-time FSA inspector in the West Bromwich plant as well as all his other plants.
He had also committed to inviting the committee to make either an announced or unannounced visit to a 2 Sisters Food Group plant, installing CCTV with complete coverage in all plants within 120 days, and implanting mystery workers into all factories by the end of January next year to identify any employees breaking site rules.
Mr Parish added: “We are pleased that Mr Boparan has written to the committee and restated his commitment to improving standards at 2 Sisters production facilities.
“The commitments are on the public record and we will be closely monitoring their implementation with a view to investigating further if required.
“It is important that consumers in both the UK and in our vital export markets feel confident in the quality of our food standards.
“We have made it quite clear that we take his assurances very seriously. We will be closely monitoring their implementation.”