2 Sisters puts together action plan after hearing on alleged food safety breaches
- Credit: PA
Chicken firm 2 Sisters Food Group is putting together a group-wide action plan to address issues raised at a food and rural affairs (Efra) committee hearing on Wednesday (October 25), it has confirmed.
Earlier this week, MPs investigating the 2 Sisters Food Group accused the food safety watchdog of intelligence and auditing failings.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) admitted to knowing of only “minor” complaints at a plant facing allegations of hygiene breaches at a food and rural affairs (Efra) committee hearing on Wednesday, October 25.
FSA chief executive Jason Feeney told the committee the plant in West Bromwich was not regarded as high risk before an undercover investigation exposed alleged poor hygiene standards, which were the subject of this week’s hearing.
But a spokesman said the company was taking action to address concerns raised. The episode had been “very upsetting” and “very uncomfortable”, he admitted, but the company was determined to learn from it and ensure rigorous standards were met.
“The process has already started and we are already taking action on the points discussed at the committee,” he said. “What we are trying to do is to learn from this process and put the necessary steps in place to ensure we improve and do things better.”
The Bromwich site remains shut while an intensive staff training programme continues, but this has not affected the company’s farmer suppliers, he stressed.
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“There should be no impact,” he said. Other sites were taking up slack to ensure that poultry was cut and processed, he explained.
Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of the company, which has factories in Thetford and Flixton, near Bungay, told the committee he was “absolutely not aware” of the alleged problems, while Mr Feeney said the FSA had no intelligence on the site which caused concern prior to the allegations.
Efra committee chairman Neil Parish called the situation “surreal”, adding: “It is not just 2 Sisters that is at fault here, it’s the regulatory system as well.”
An undercover reporter claimed to witness workers tampering with slaughter dates and mixing meat of different ages.
Source codes on crates of meat were also changed and meat was picked up off the floor, the investigation claimed.
2 Sisters chief executive Mr Boparan told the committee: “We absolutely apologise for the doubt this has caused to our customers, consumers and employees,” adding that the firm was “continuously committed to improving food safety”.
When asked if he had seen the footage gathered by undercover reporters from ITV and The Guardian on the company’s own CCTV system, Mr Boparan said its cameras did not cover an area where alleged breaches had been seen – an oversight which Mr Parish called “convenient”. Mr Boparan replied: “These four weeks have been very difficult for a lot of people. Mistakes happen but what we try to do is learn from the mistakes and put them right.”
He also said a staff member had since been put on watching CCTV footage during production “because we want to make sure we get the confidence of consumers back”.
He insisted the company did not have “low standards”, adding: “I reassure you we will continue to improve. I reassure you food safety is our highest agenda. I reassure you our food is safe.”
Later, the 2 Sisters spokesman said the firm was focused on understanding what had happened and putting the necessary changes in place “to reinforce that confidence for our consumers”.
“It’s absolutely front of mind in everything we do,” he said.