The UK’s 2 Sisters Food Group, which is at the centre of a chicken hygiene investigation over date labels, has revealed it has “found some other areas of concern” at its poultry production plant in the West Midlands.
The company temporarily closed the factory in West Bromwich last weekend after an undercover video probe by The Guardian newspaper and ITV News alleged workers tampered with slaughter date labels on fresh chickens, posing a potential health hazard to consumers with respect to use-by dates. Major supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s consequently suspended supplies as they launched investigations.
2 Sisters executives reportedly said on a conference call with investors yesterday (3 October) that the closure would cost up to GBP500,000 (US$663,000) a week, but it will use the incident as a “wake-up call”, according to The Guardian.
Investment banks on the call included Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Barclays.
2 Sisters said the problems at the West Bromwich plant related to food hygiene rather than regulatory breaches.
Martyn Fletcher, the company’s COO, said: “We do not believe that we have got any major compliance issues in our organisation. It’s isolated to this particular video footage and we have, in investigating the site, found some other areas of concern at that site.”
The media investigation also appeared to show workers mixed birds with different “kill” dates on the production line and that products returned by UK supermarkets were repackaged and returned.
In a statement on 1 October, the company said it suspended operations at the plant due to some “isolated instances of non-compliance” with its own quality management systems.
“We responded immediately by launching our own internal investigation at our West Bromwich plant and invited the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to independently review our standards,” 2 Sisters said then. “The FSA has been in daily attendance since the allegations were raised and confirmed that it has not identified any breaches.”
The suspension was undertaken to allow workers and management at the site to be retrained while on full pay, the company said, adding that it will only recommence production once staff have been “appropriately retrained”.
“We continue to work closely with the FSA and our customers throughout this period,” 2 Sisters said on 1 October. “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.”