2 Sisters suspended operations at its West Bromwich plant, after an undercover joint investigation by The Guardian and ITV News claimed chicken returned by supermarket distribution centres was being repackaged and returned to retailers.
The report, backed by what was alleged to be video evidence filmed at the plant, further claimed workers disguised the slaughter location and date of some chicken in moves which could result in consumers buying meat past its use-by date.
The industry insider, who asked not to be named, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The UK’s largest food company, supplying all the major retailers, needs to have the highest standards in the industry.
‘The right calibre of management’
“It is all about having the right calibre of management and Ranjit [Boparan, owner of 2 Sisters] needs to look at the quality of people he employs and the way he runs his empire. It needs to be run like a plc in every way with the best management in the sector.”
The insider, who asked to remain anonymous, added that the allegations should serve as a wake-up call for the 2 Sisters board “to insist on a change of style and culture”.
Meanwhile, 2 Sisters said it was “shocked and distressed” by the allegations and the video footage, while some major retailers stopped taking chicken from the site and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched an investigation into the claims.
2 Sisters pledged to “work around the clock to get to the truth of the matter”. The manufacturer said it had uncovered “some isolated instances of non-compliance” with its own quality management systems.
‘Isolated instances of non-compliance’
It had temporarily suspended operations at the site to enable the retraining of all colleagues, including management, in all food safety and quality management systems.
2 Sisters staff remain on full pay during the training programme.
“We remain committed to ensuring that we operate to the highest standards of hygiene and food safety, and we act with honesty and integrity at all times,” said the business in a statement.
After the alleged abuses were made public on Friday (September 29), Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco joined leading retailers Sainsbury, Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl and The Co-op in suspending deliveries from the plant.
The FSA said an initial probe had found no evidence of breaches. The cutting plant was regularly audited by FSA inspectors and the site was also subject to unannounced inspections, said the FSA in a statement.
FSA chairman Heather Hancock said: “We take any allegations of inaccurate labelling and breaches in hygiene regulations very seriously. Should we find any evidence of any risk to public health, any products on the market which we believe to be a cause of concern will be urgently removed from sale.”
It urged The Guardian and ITV News to share any additional evidence, including witness statements, that would help its investigations.
Meanwhile, read why the undercover investigation revealed a failure of food safety culture at the plant, according to hygiene experts.