The food manufacturer admitted three offences at Ipswich Crown Court, following local authority inspections at the firm’s chicken roasting plant at Haughley Park, Stowmarket in 2011. The investigation found that food was given a 14-day shelf life – four days longer than the 10 days recommended by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
But during a second visit, inspectors found that notices to comply with the recommended shelf life had been ignored.
2 Sisters was fined £112,500 for breaking food safety laws and was told to pay £41,000 in costs to the council. The fine reflected the firm’s failure to act upon the remedial action notices, its lack of a food safety management safety system and failure to provide requested records of production when they were requested.
‘We deeply regret’
A spokesman for the firm said: “We deeply regret that what started as a genuine disagreement about the proper shelf-life for certain products ended in a prosecution due to miscommunication within our organisation which resulted in a number of procedural oversights.
“Although there was no safety risk, we accept that we should have amended our documentation (in light of the local authority’s inspection) and updated them to reflect the systems that were in place at the site at the time.”
The spokesman also acknowledged that more should have been done after the inspectors issued a remedial action notice to monitor that the firm complied with the terms of the notice.
2 Sisters was committed to maintaining the highest of standards, he added. “Our Haughley Park site currently holds a BRC [British Retail Consortium] Global Standard for Food ‘A’ grade certificate – the highest grade available.”
Technical training programme
The firm was also expanding its technical training programme by partnering with research organisation Campden BRI, he said. “We are creating a training and development hub at our corporate headquarters to ensure that our people have access to the best possible training and support.”
A Mid Suffolk District Council spokesman said the food safety rules were intended to safeguard against botulism food poisoning.
John Grayling, the council’s manager of food and safety services, told BBC News after the court case “someone was putting profit before food safety and it seems likely they were doing so because they thought it was what the company wanted”.
Last August the firm announced plans to close its Haughley Park site with the loss of 432 full-time jobs and some part-time roles.
Meanwhile, last week 2 Sisters opened its new £1M microbiology lab, designed to tackle campylobacter and other food pathogens.
More information about Food Manufacture's Food Safety Conference – due to take place at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham on Thursday, October 17 – is available here. Speakers include representatives from the FSA, Which?, Unilever, Leatherhead Food Research and other food safety, supply chain and traceability experts.