According to the allegations made public yesterday (December 19), Tesco food standards inspectors found a series of “major process issues” at the plant.
A statement on the manufacturer’s website noted: “We have been made aware of several allegations made by The Guardian/ITV in relation to an audit report on our Coupar Angus site, which was commissioned by Tesco. We view these allegations extremely seriously.
“However, ITV and The Guardian are referring to standard inspection audits and appear to be trying to damage the reputation of our factories and potentially the livelihoods of 23,000 colleagues by misrepresenting them.
‘The livelihoods of 23,000 colleagues’
“There is, and never was, any risk to food safety at Coupar Angus. This is using old news to highlight issues which were resolved with our customer two months ago.”
The Guardian and ITV News claimed they had seen leaked documents, which alleged auditors for Britain’s biggest supermarket gave a “red warning” to the Coupar Angus plant.
The warning was said to refer to the alleged mixing of organic and standard chickens, a computer system, which allowed all factory workers to change use-by dates, examples of double labelling or no labelling, “serious issues” with records intended to account for chickens destined for disposal and “failed” attempts to track chickens recorded as being sent for disposal from the plant.
In addition to Tesco, the Coupar Angus plant is understood to supply Aldi, Asda, The Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury.
2 Sisters’ chicken processing plant at West Bromwich reopened in early November after being forced to close for a few weeks, following the publication of an uncover investigation by The Guardian and ITV News, which claimed staff at the plant had abused food safety, hygiene and animal welfare rules.
In October, an investigation by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) revealed that an initial investigation of the West Bromwich site had failed to identify food safety concerns. But the FSA probe had highlighted “issues requiring management attention, for example in relation to some aspects of staff training and staff control”.
At the time, the agency said there was no evidence to suggest any food safety concerns at the Coupar Angus plant.
FSA staff are now stationed permanently at the West Bromwich site and CCTV coverage of the factory had been extended and monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Meanwhile, 2 Sisters pledged yesterday to reveal the results of all audit inspections at its plants.