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2 Sisters Food Group breached food safety rules at chicken factory, investigation claims

PUBLISHED: 12:28 29 September 2017 | UPDATED: 12:28 29 September 2017

An investigation claims to have revealed a series of alleged breaches of food safety rules at a factory belonging to one of the largest suppliers of chicken to UK supermarkets. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

An investigation claims to have revealed a series of alleged breaches of food safety rules at a factory belonging to one of the largest suppliers of chicken to UK supermarkets. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

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An investigation claims to have revealed a series of alleged breaches of food safety rules at a factory belonging to one of the largest suppliers of chicken to UK supermarkets.

An undercover reporter working at a West Midlands site belonging to the 2 Sisters Food Group claimed to witness workers tampering with slaughter dates to artificially extend the meat’s shelf life.

2 Sisters Food Group operates processing plants at Thetford and Flixton near Bungay, though neither facility has been named in the investigation. The group is headed by Ranjit Singh Boparan, who also owns East Anglian turkey producer Bernard Matthews through a separate company.

Meat of different ages was also mixed together and codes on crates of meat were changed, the investigation by ITV News and the Guardian claimed. Changing the codes means the meat would be untraceable in the event of an outbreak of food poisoning.

The reporter also saw employees at the multi-million pound business returning potentially contaminated chicken to the production line after it had fallen on the floor, the two news organisations said.

2 Sisters supplies to supermarkets across the UK including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl and Marks and Spencer.

ITV News and the Guardian said in a statement that more than 20 workers had confirmed the unhygienic practices took place while some said they will no longer eat chicken from supermarkets.

Some workers also claimed the chicken that supermarkets reject is sometimes repackaged at the factory and sent out again.

Quality assurance workers told journalists they are intimidated by production managers and worry about being sent home if they try and enforce food hygiene rules.

The company was founded in 1993 by Ranjit Singh Boparan and now employs 23,000 staff, and although it has diversified, the bulk of the group’s income still comes from processing poultry.

Mr Boparan and his wife Baljinder have a fortune of £544m, according to the Sunday Times.

The company told the investigation: “We view these allegations extremely seriously.

“However, we have not been given the time or the detailed evidence to conduct any thorough investigations to establish the facts, which makes a fulsome and detailed response very difficult.

“What we can confirm is that hygiene and food safety will always be the number one priority within the business and they remain at its very core.”

It said it was subject to regular inspections by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other hygiene standards organisations.

The FSA told the Press Association: “The Food Standards Agency takes any allegations of inaccurate labelling and breaches in hygiene regulations very seriously.

“We urge ITN and the Guardian to share the full details with us, such as the footage taken and witness interview transcripts, so that we can investigate thoroughly and promptly.

“This particular cutting plant is regularly audited by the FSA and they are also subject to unannounced inspections.”

In the wake of the report, Green MEP for the South East Keith Taylor described the findings as “deeply concerning” and called for an independent investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group.

Mr Taylor, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Public Health Committee, said: “The significance of what’s been uncovered here cannot be overstated. The shocking expose reveals that the largest supplier of chickens to UK supermarkets has both a dangerous and systematic disregard for basic food safety standards.

“The practices uncovered are in breach of both UK and EU law and an independent investigation must be launched urgently to ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Sainsbury’s each issued statements saying they were investigating the allegations.

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