2 Sisters claims ‘raise questions about management calibre’

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

2 Sisters admitted it had found ‘some isolated instances of non-compliance’
2 Sisters admitted it had found ‘some isolated instances of non-compliance’

Related tags: Food safety, Food standards agency

Claims that 2 Sisters Food Group staff abused food safety, hygiene and welfare rules, while unproven, raised important questions about the calibre of management at the site, according to an industry insider.

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. 

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1 comment

When retailers demand the loestunit cost for food and beverages, malpractice will occur

Posted by William Embery,

As a newly qualified Food Technologist in 1983, I joined a Graduate Trainee with a bakery in Walthamstow.
The practices highlighted by ITV/Guardian recently were the same as I experienced there daily, but related to branded and retailer sliced bread and morning goods.
I resigned after 4 weeks as no one would listen to my concerns - the malpractice was rife and senior management turned a blind eye.
I had assumed such bad practices between production and quality departments had disappeared with the advent of BRC et al - but sadly no.
I joined RHM almost immediately - here the production pressures were less (ambient cake versus short shelf-life bread) but more importantly, processes were in place and the company philosophy was to maintain the quality and goodwill of RHM and it's retail own label products.
This was pre-BRC, ISO etc
Ultimately, the retailer's demand for low cost products and the UK consumers demand for cheap food will inevitably lead to such incidences occurring again, with or without BRC and customer audits.
Let's not forget that the fundamentals of BRC were based on NASA's early HACCP procedures in the 1960's and 70'S and we all know too well how NASA's own internal pressures led to two serious Space Shuttle accidents with Challenger and Discovery - where individuals decided to ignore the basic principals of GMP
Human nature, as it is, means such incidences will occur again.

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