The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has launched a parliamentary enquiry into the recent 2 Sisters food safety breaches.
They will hear evidence from the firm’s owner, Ranjit Singh Boparan.
Boss called to answer
Boparan is the multi-millionaire boss of the 2 Sisters Food Group, but this week he has a lot to answer for. He has been called to a parliamentary enquiry which is looking into the allegations of food safety issues with one of its factories.
The Guardian and ITV News used undercover footage to reveal a number of breaches that would make any health and safety professional blanche. They showed chicken being dropped to the floor and then put back on the line, as well as expiry dates being altered by members of staff. Their Site D plant in West Bromwich was the offending area, and 2 Sisters reacted to the footage by shutting down the plant immediately for extra staff training days.
The Food Standards Agency has now extended their investigation of the footage to more 2 Sisters sites, including their factory in Willand, to assess whether the problem was with one branch or is company-wide.
Either way, it looks like trouble for Boparan. The breach has already cost the company a lot of money with their temporary shutdown, which is still in place while staff are retrained. Meanwhile, five supermarket chains have stopped their deliveries from the plant – Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, Aldi, Tesco, and Lidl.
The DEFRA enquiry is going to look into the performance of food standards and whether the regulations are being followed across the brand. They may also have findings which are serious across the poultry sector and even for food supply chain jobs.
MP raised alarm
The investigation was triggered when Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, reacted to the scandal immediately. He is the chairman of the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, which was called to a meeting in which he raised the need for a deeper look into the facts.
The hearing will take place on October 25th, and will hear evidence from Boparan as well as several regulatory bodies. These include the Food Standards Agency, the British Poultry Council, and Assured Food Standards.
Mr 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 company has not yet made any comments about the hearing, but has told investors that the problems were related to food hygiene and were not regulatory breaches. It remains to be seen whether the investigation will find the same conclusion.
A spokesperson asked to comment on the FSA inspections said: “We receive regular audits at all our English and Welsh sites by the FSA throughout the year, so of course we will welcome our FSA colleagues at any location they wish to inspect in the coming days.”
2 Sisters is the second largest food company in the UK by turnover, and processes around 6 million chickens a week.