UK: Scandal-hit chicken group in spotlight again

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20 Dec 2017 --- The 2 Sisters Food Group, which was at the center of a safety scandal earlier this year following an undercover expose which revealed poor hygiene standards and serious food safety breaches, is once again in the spotlight as media reports claim that Tesco found issues at a second plant where inspectors gave a “red” warning rating to processes at a chicken plant in Scotland.

According to another article in The Guardian – which carried out the original undercover joint operation alongside ITV News when they filmed over a 12-day period revealing seriously poor hygiene standards, stories of food safety records being altered, some employees changing food date labels and chickens being dropped on the floor and put back on the production line – UK retailer Tesco uncovered a series of major process issues at a second 2 Sisters Food Group factory.

This reportedly happened on the same weekend that separate concerns lead to the closure of Britain’s biggest chicken supplier at the West Bromwich plant.

The latest Guardian article says that leaked documents show how in October the supermarket’s auditors gave what they described as a “red” warning rating to 2 Sisters’ chicken plant in Scotland.

This Scottish factory supplies major UK retailers like Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Aldi, Co-op, Iceland as well as Tesco and the report was gathered as part of a series of emergency inspections of 2 Sisters factories directly after the initial undercover investigation.

In a Tesco statement sent to FoodIngredientsFirst the retailer highlights that “nothing is more important to Tesco than the safety of the food we sell.”

“We ensure the food our supplier partners produce is of the highest standard with routine, detailed and rigorous audits across our supply chain,” it says.

“When we became aware of the issues at 2 Sisters’ West Bromwich site, we immediately conducted an additional 46 visits and inspections across other 2 Sisters poultry sites. None of the specific food safety risks highlighted at West Bromwich were replicated at any other site. Tesco’s inspections did not identify regulatory breaches at any of 2 Sisters sites.”

“Coupar Angus is an important source of chicken for the whole retail industry. All retailers conduct regular inspections as a safeguard against potential food safety issues. Our inspection highlighted a number of inadequate processes at this site, including labeling, segregation, traceability and recording. We insisted these were addressed immediately to prevent any food safety issues.”

“We have shared our findings with the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland and welcome their investigations. We continue to monitor practices closely across 2 Sisters poultry sites.”

According to The Guardian, after Tesco unearthed problems at the Coupar Angus plant in Perth and Kinross, inspectors insisted they were immediately addressed to prevent food safety issues and the supermarket changed the site’s rating from “green” to “red.”

Red warnings are understood to be given for a variety of reasons in general and can include a single “critical” food safety issue. According to the Guardian’s report, Tesco auditors found five compliance issues categorized as “major.”

According to The Guardian, the Tesco audit documents state that organic and non-organic chicken was being mixed up, labeling issues, a computer system that allowed all factory workers “to change use-by dates” and “failed” efforts to trace chicken recorded as being despatched from the plant.

However, a statement from the 2 Sisters Food Group says there was never any risk to food safety at Coupar Angus.

A statement says: “We have been made aware of several allegations made by The Guardian/ITV in relation to an audit report on our Coupar Angus site which was commissioned by Tesco.”

“We view these allegations extremely seriously.”

“However, ITV and The Guardian are referring to standard inspection audits and appear to be trying to damage the reputation of our factories and potentially the livelihoods of 23,000 colleagues by misrepresenting them. There is and never was any risk to food safety at Coupar Angus. This is using old news to highlight issues which were resolved with our customer two months ago.”

2 Sisters have also said that neither the mixed organic and standard chicken, nor poultry earmarked for disposal, had been despatched to customers and in relation to the computer system allowing workers to change use-by-dates, there was no evidence that this was happening even if it was theoretically possible. In addition, 2 Sisters is understood to have taken further measures to make the computer more secure.

Read more FoodIngredientsFirst coverage of the scandal-hit plant from earlier this year here and here.

 

By Gaynor Selby

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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