Health minister Jeremy Hunt has ordered the immediate inspection of two 2 Sisters plants embroiled in The Guardian poultry industry probe – less than 24 hours after the Food Standards Agency issued a statement supporting one of the sites.
The FSA is to now inspect 2 Sisters plants at the centre of allegations made by The Guardian this week that the UK poultry industry was guilty of hygiene breaches that could heighten the risk of spreading the campylobacter bug. One is in Llangefni on Anglesey, and the other in Scunthorpe.
Hunt’s intervention comes despite the FSA yesterday issuing a statement that it was “satisfied that appropriate action was taken” in Llangefni when a mechanical breakdown led to high-risk material, including feathers, guts and offal, being piled up for several hours on separate occasions while production continued.
“We want the public to feel reassured the food they buy is safe,” said a spokesman for the DoH, who added that the FSA had already reviewed The Guardian’s evidence and found no risk to public health. “In addition, the FSA has agreed, at the request of the secretary of state for health, to conduct a full safety audit of the facility. They will start in the next 24 hours and report back shortly,” he said.
The plant inspections will investigate whether operations were consistent with good hygiene practice and legislation, and will involve a review of CCTV footage, said the DoH.
Consequent action that could be taken by the FSA ranges from advice to prosecution.
An FSA spokesman said it wanted the public “to feel reassured that the food they buy is safe”, adding that it had agreed to undertake the tests after consultation with the DoH, and in order to “make doubly sure” there was no risk to public health.
2 Sisters Food Group declined to comment on the decision to launch inspections at the plants although it and Faccenda Foods – which had also been named in The Guardian report – have both refuted the newspaper’s allegations.
There are currently no microbiological limits set for campylobacter in poultry, however, the EU is in the early stages of discussions with member states on regarding proposals for process hygiene criteria, the DoH confirmed.