Food Standards Agency and Red Tractor monitor to also attend enquiry

Food Standards Agency and Red Tractor monitor to also attend enquiry

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the owner of UK poultry processor 2 Sisters Food Group, has been summoned to appear before a parliamentary enquiry after an undercover investigation revealed poor hygiene standards at its plant in the West Midlands.

Following a meeting on Wednesday (11 October), the Common's environment, food and rural affairs committee has called Boparan to a hearing on 25 October, The Guardian reported. The UK newspaper and ITV News were the source of the probe that alleged workers tampered with slaughter dates on fresh chickens at the site, raising concern about the health risk to consumers over use-by dates. Birds sent back to the factory from supermarkets were also repackaged and returned while fresh chickens with different "kill'' dates were mixed on the production line.

Major UK supermarkets supplied by the plant immediately suspended deliveries following the revelations, while 2 Sisters shut down the factory to retrain staff. It still remains closed. The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) launched an investigation and said last week it is in the process of inspecting 12 of the company's other plants.

The hearing will also take evidence from representatives of the FSA, the British Poultry Council and Assured Food Standards (AFS), which promotes and regulates food quality and licenses the Red Tractor quality mark, The Guardian reported. 

The AFS monitors the way food is farmed and prepared using independent experts to make sure products are of a good standard and awards the Red Tractor logo as an assurance to consumers. 2 Sisters produces a third of all poultry products eaten in the UK and supplies Tesco, Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl. All those supermarkets have launched their own investigations into the allegations.

MP Neil Parish, who is chair of the environment, food and rural affairs committee, said: "The committee has been closely monitoring reports about malpractice at the 2 Sisters Food Group, and considers an inquiry into the allegations of food safety breaches at its processing plants to be a matter of urgency.''

He went on to say: "We hope that looking into the causes of any breaches will allow 2 Sisters to rectify the situation and put in place safeguards that mean similar incidents do not happen again. It's vital that lessons learned in our inquiry inform the wider industry, contribute to higher food standards and restore the confidence in both food and farming across the UK."

After launching an investigation into the West Bromwich plant, the FSA said on 29 September it found "no evidence of breaches" at the site. In an update on 6 October, it said: "This inspection has not identified food safety issues on these premises, but it highlighted issues requiring management attention, for example in relation to some aspects of staff training and stock control.'' 

Last week, 2 Sisters said it "found some other areas of concern'' at the West Bromwich plant.