2 Sisters Food Group’s West Bromwich poultry slaughterhouse has been plunged into a media storm following undercover filming that has suggested breaches of food safety standards.
The Food Standards Agency launched an investigation on the plant, but said an initial inspection had found no evidence of breaches. Despite this, Marks & Spencer and Aldi have both suspended supply from the site until their own enquiries conclude.
ITN and the Guardian collaborated on a project that saw a reporter take a job at the slaughterhouse to covertly film production lines. Journalists also claim to have collated some 20 witness accounts from current and former employees backing up the video, first broadcast on ITN’s 10 o’clock news programme on 29 September.
Footage purports to show workers at the plant changing kill dates to artificially extend use by dates and mixing poultry meat of differing ages on the same production lines.
The video also shows chicken falling on to the floor and being picked up placed back on production lines.
One segment appears to show workers opening packaged chicken products which it claims were returned from Lidl stores being repacked and sent to Tesco.
The supermarkets supplied by the plant all said they would launch reviews, while the FSA urged the Guardian and ITN to submit all relevant evidence.
Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA said: “It is the responsibility of a food business to ensure that the food it sells is safe and what it says it is.
“We take any allegations of inaccurate labelling and breaches in hygiene regulations very seriously. Should we find any evidence of any risk to public health, any products on the market which we believe to be a cause of concern will be urgently removed from sale.”
Poultry plants are regularly inspected by a range of quality assurance bodies, and 2 Sisters says that 9 audits – 5 of which were unannounced – took place between July and August, the period that the footage was shot. The West Bromwich site is overseen by the FSA, Red Tractor and the British Retail Consortium.
2 Sisters said it needed more time to respond to the allegations, and that it had not received detailed enough evidence to date that supported the allegations.
A spokesman said: “What we can confirm is that hygiene and food safety will always be the number one priority within the business, and they remain at its very core.
“We also successfully operate in one of the most tightly-controlled and highly regulated food sectors in the world.
“We are subject to multiple and frequent unannounced audits from the FSA, BRC, Red Tractor, independent auditors as well as our customers.
“However, we are never complacent and remain committed to continually improving our processes and procedures.
“If, on presentation of further evidence, it comes to light any verifiable transgressions have been made at any of our sites, we will leave no stone unturned in investigating and remedying the situation immediately.”