Problems identified at The 2 Sisters Food Group, which had to suspend operations at a chicken factory over hygiene concerns, were “not a one-off”, MPs have claimed.
The company’s West Midlands poulty plant was forced to stop taking orders in October, after a Guardian and ITV News investigation allegedlly found workers to be tampering with food safety records.
Cross-party MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in a new report that the 2 Sisters plant had a “far from pristine” past record. The MPs also raised concerns about how the production plant was being monitored by the authorities.
Committee chairman Neil Parish said: “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.”
2 Sisters produced a third of all poultry products consumed in the UK. Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl and The Co-op have stopped buying chicken from the West Bromwich site, following the allegations.
MPs also looked at the role and performance of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Sandwell Metropolitan Council and other bodies. The committee found that workers at the plant were given about 30 minutes notice, so they could better prepare for an inspection.
The inquiry found that Assured Food Standards, which licenses the Red Tractor quality mark, did not “immediately and especially” inform the FSA when it briefly suspended the 2 Sisters accreditation between October 2 and October 9.
The FSA is conducting its own investigation into The 2 Sisters Food Group, across England, Wales and Scotland.
2 Sisters’ chief executive Ranjit Singh Boparan wrote to MPs promising that he would make a number of company changes - including placing a full-time FSA inspector at all plants, installing CCTV with complete coverage in all plants within 120 days, and put ’mystery workers’ into all factories by the end of January 2018
The committee’s report concluded: “The problems identified at the 2 Sisters plant at West Bromwich were 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.”