2 Sisters guilty of poor hygiene at poultry plants, FSA finds

The 2 Sisters Food Group at the centre of a meat factory scandal was guilty of regulatory failures and poor hygiene at its poultry plants, according to a report by the Food Standards Agency.

The FSA inspected sites operated by 2 Sisters, one of the UK’s largest chicken suppliers, following a Guardian and ITV undercover investigation at the firm’s West Bromwich plant last year, which raised questions over the firm’s food standards and prompted it to suspend production there for five weeks.

Ranjit Singh Boparan, the founder of the group, stood down as chief executive of the firm on Tuesday after 25 years, following the revelations which also led to major supermarkets suspending purchases from the firm.

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In a report published on Friday by MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee, the FSA said it had reviewed CCTV footage at the poultry plants between 2 July and 18 August last year to gather evidence.

“This provided evidence of sporadic poor hygiene and bad practice, such as inadequate use of protective clothing, placing of knives on unhygienic surfaces or inadequate cleaning procedures but did not represent widespread systematic failures,” the FSA concluded.

“On some sites the tests for salmonella were completed using poultry cuts, instead of neck skins which was in breach of legislative requirements.

“The report highlights several process weaknesses and regulatory failures found at 2SFG plants.”

Undercover filming by the Guardian and ITV showed workers altering slaughter dates on batches of chickens and reintroducing to the production line poultry which had been dropped on the floor.

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2 Sisters had claimed there was an innocent explanation for changing the date labels. However, the FSA concluded: “No justification for this incident of label changes could be established.”

The FSA said there was also CCTV footage of cleaners placing meat that should be disposed of as by-products into a bin: “The use of the bin contents cannot be established from the CCTV.”

In response to the Guardian and ITV’s allegation that freshly killed chicken was mixed on the production line with chicken killed at earlier dates, the FSA said: “It was possible for small amounts of meat from a previous production run to be used in another, whether or not the latter was from the same source and/or with the same kill date.”

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The FSA said it was satisfied that the company had resolved the issues identified through “corrective actions”. 2 Sisters has also agreed to install upgraded CCTV systems in all its processing plants, to improve staff training, introduce a mystery worker programme, and improve the group’s corporate culture.

However, Tory MP Neil Parish, chair of the EFRA committee, was critical of the FSA: “This report today focuses on the past issues at 2 Sisters, but we have recommended that the FSA makes a range of changes for the future. The FSA must gather and collate all the information that comes from the retailers’ own inspections of the meat processing plants.”