Poultry firm boss to give evidence to inquiry on food safety at plant

UK – The multimillionaire boss of the UK’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken is to be summoned before a parliamentary inquiry after undercover filming revealed poor hygiene standards and altered food safety records.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, who founded 2 Sisters Food Group, has been called to give evidence after an investigation by the Guardian and ITV News last month showed workers altering the slaughter date of poultry processed at a plant in West Bromwich and returning chicken that had fallen on to the floor to the production line.

The group produces a third of all poultry products eaten in the UK and supplies supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl.

All five have launched their own investigations and suspended deliveries from the factory, which has now been shut for almost two weeks to retrain staff.

The decision by the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee follows a meeting of its members on Wednesday and comes after its chair, MP Neil Parish, reacted to the scandal two weeks ago by saying he was preparing to call the entrepreneur.

The 25 October hearing will also take evidence from representatives of the Food Standards Agency, the British Poultry Council and Assured Food Standards, which promotes and regulates food quality and licenses the Red Tractor quality mark.

Parish said: “Public confidence in our domestic food standards is central to the success of the UK’s agri-food industry.

“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.

“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.”

The prospect of the publicity-shy Boparan having to give evidence is the latest setback for the self-made millionaire.

It comes days after the FSA said it was now looking at 11 sites in England and Wales while its Scottish counterpart said it was looking at one plant.

The FSA said it had not found any threats to public health at the West Bromwich plant, but that it had identified issues requiring management attention. The investigation is centred on food hygiene and labelling.

The Guardian and ITV released undercover footage last month showing an instance of 2 Sisters workers altering the source and slaughter date labels on poultry processed in the firm’s Site D plant in West Bromwich.

Experts said altering “kill dates” could artificially stretch the commercial life of the meat and dupe consumers into buying chicken past its use-by date.

Other sections of the footage, which was filmed in August, showed chicken being picked off the floor and thrown back on to the production line, and older poultry being mixed with fresher birds.

The company did not comment on the select committee’s decision to call its founder, but it told an investors’ conference call last week that problems at the factory related to food hygiene rather than regulatory breaches.

The Guardian

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