2 Sisters has admitted it is “shocked and distressed” at claims staff at its West Bromwich chicken factory breached food safety rules, and announced it has temporarily suspended operations at the site.
The Ranjit Singh-owned food giant was enveloped in a food safety crisis last week after an exposé by ITV and The Guardian alleged the supplier was guilty of a litany of food safety violations.
Some of the breaches uncovered by the report included claims workers would pick up discarded pieces of chicken and place them back on the production lines, alongside allegations staff regularly tampered with kill dates to extend a product’s use-by date.
The investigation also claimed chicken reared for other retailers ended up in packets for Tesco’s Willow Farms - despite labelling stating the contents had been “reared exclusively for Tesco”.
2 Sisters initially defended its processes when the story broke on 28 September, saying it had not been given enough time or detailed evidence “to conduct any thorough investigations to establish the facts”.
But after launching an internal investigation and inviting the FSA to independently review its standards, it announced yesterday (1 October) that, having reviewed the evidence, it had found “some isolated instances of non-compliance with our own quality management systems”.
Consequently, it had decided to “temporarily suspend operations at the site to allow us the time to retrain all colleagues including management in all food safety and quality management systems”, it said in a statement.
“All colleagues will remain on full pay and will attend site whilst training is undertaken. We will only recommence supply once we are satisfied that our colleagues have been appropriately retrained,” it added.
“We remain committed to ensuring that we operate to the highest standards of hygiene and food safety, and we act with honesty and integrity at all times.”
It comes as the supplier’s main retail partners, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Lidl and Aldi all announced they would cease taking supplies from the West Bromwich factory.
A spokesman for Tesco said it had conducted additional quality assurance tests in the wake of the exposé and it supported the FSA’s findings that there was no current evidence of a breach of food safety procedures at West Bromwich.
“However, there have been isolated incidents where food quality procedures have not been followed and therefore, in agreement with 2 Sisters, we have decided to suspend all orders from the site so that staff can receive further training,” he said. “We will not be taking any more chicken from the site until this has been addressed and all processes are carried out to the highest standard.”