Not taking the biscuit: MPs’ no to ‘unsolicited’ Fox’s selection offering

A parliamentary inquiry into food standards at 2 Sisters Food Group took a bizarre turn on Wednesday when a select committee accused the chicken processor of an “attempt to impugn” its impartiality by sending MPs “unsolicited” biscuits.

Writing to the group’s chief executive Ranjit Singh Boparan, MP Neil Parish, the Conservative chair of the environment, food and rural affairs committee, said: “Several members of my committee have reported the receipt of unsolicited gifts from the 2 Sisters Food Group over the Christmas period.

“We consider the sending of these gifts to be an inappropriate gesture on your part and an unwarranted attempt to impugn the committee’s impartiality. I would be grateful if you would respect the integrity and independence of the committee and avoid similar gestures in the future.”

In response, 2 Sisters Food Group said: “It was approximately eight packets of Fox’s and own-brand biscuits which we send every year to a number of external stakeholders as a goodwill gesture at Christmas. We have responded formally to Mr Parish explaining this.”

Apart from being the country’s largest supplier of supermarket chicken and accounting for a third of all poultry products eaten in the UK, Boparan’s business empire also includes other food brands such as Fox’s biscuits, Matthew Walker Christmas puddings and Holland’s pies.

The multi-millionaire entrepreneur had appeared in front of the committee in October following a Guardian and ITV undercover investigation into food standards at the firm’s West Bromwich plant, which included footage showing chickens being retrieved from the factory floor and placed back on to the production line.

During the parliamentary hearing, Boparan apologised for the scandal that had engulfed his company and prompted the firm to suspend production from the West Bromwich site for five weeks.

The committee said it planned to call further witnesses to give evidence this year.

Parish added that the biscuits had been donated to charity or returned to 2 Sisters.

“Those members in receipt of gifts from 2 Sisters Food Group have declared this in the committee’s formal minutes,” he said.