UK: Parliamentary inquiry finds 2 Sisters problems “are not a one-off”


21 Nov 2017 --- British MPs have ruled that problems at the English poultry and food manufacturing group 2 Sisters – which suspended operations last month due to hygiene concerns following an undercover operation – were "not a one-off”. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched its inquiry into 2 Sisters and poultry standards following an expose by The Guardian and ITN which found evidence of 2 Sisters workers altering the slaughter date of poultry, raising the risk that shoppers could end up buying meat past its use-by date. 

The undercover investigation also captured workers dropping chicken on the floor of the processing plant and returning it to the production line, among other hygiene issues. 

The parliamentary inquiry examined evidence sessions, looked at the issues raised at the 2 Sisters plant and the role and performance of the Food Standards Agency, Sandwell Metropolitan Council and accreditation bodies.

It describes how the past record of the 2 Sisters Food Group is “far from pristine.”

It also explored the potential ramifications of the allegations made against 2 Sisters for the poultry sector and the wider food chain.

Report findings
The report notes that there is, "no systematic process for bringing together the various audits and assessments conducted by different accreditation and regulatory bodies; as such there is no single overarching view about standards in a particular plant or facility."

"After Assured Food Standards suspended 2 Sisters' Red Tractor accreditation it did not immediately and especially inform the Food Standards Agency."

It also found that "unannounced visits are not completely a surprise; even an unannounced visit gives processors a period of around 30 minutes' grace before the inspection begins and as a result "people will tend to be on their best behavior."

"The problems identified at the 2 Sisters plant at West Bromwich are not a one-off. The past record of the 2 Sisters Food Group is far from pristine and there are valid questions to be asked of its corporate governance structure.”

Wakeup call for all accreditation firms
Following the 2 Sister food scandal, several UK retailers including Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer, Lidl and Aldi, suspended taking fresh chicken from the West Bromwich plant, which accounts for one-third of all chicken processed in Britain. 

Despite a temporary suspension of work, 2 Sisters resumed production in early November.

"Our inquiry should serve as a wakeup call for all accreditation firms and cause them to improve their processes and remove any loopholes that may exist, not just those discovered through our inquiry,” says Neil Parish MP, Chairman of the inquiry. 

“Food supply chains are sensitive and easy to disrupt when retailers and consumers lose confidence in food quality or safety. Large producers and retailers have a responsibility to protect, rather than undermine, the UK’s food producers."

Letter from Ranjit Singh Boparan
2 Sisters Group chief executive Ranjit Singh Boparan was called to appear before a parliamentary select committee where he apologized for the scandal, detailed comprehensive training programs for staff and said the company would pay for independent inspectors to watch over all of his 12 UK chicken plants. 

He also wrote to the Committee on 10 November, confirming in writing the commitments he made to the Environment, Foods and Rural Affairs Committee during his hearing. These commitments are:

- Placing a full-time FSA inspector in West Bromwich poultry plant (now in situ) as well all other poultry plants (w/c 13th November). 
- Sharing the forensic report analyzing the Guardian/ITN footage with the Committee.
- Inviting the Committee to visit a 2 Sisters Food Group plant, announced or unannounced.
- Installing CCTV with complete coverage in all poultry plants (within 120 days), and establishing a CCTV committee.
- Implanting mystery workers into all poultry factories by the end of January 2018.
- Sharing progress on the above with the Committee.

"We are pleased that Mr. Boparan has written to the Committee and restated his commitment to improving standards at Two Sisters’ production facilities,” adds Parish. “The commitments are on the public record and we will be closely monitoring their implementation with a view to investigating further if required.”

“It is important that consumers in both the UK and in our vital export markets feel confident in the quality of our food standards. We have made it quite clear that we take his assurances very seriously. We will be closely monitoring their implementation."

Meanwhile, the UK’s Food Standards Agency welcomes the findings of the Efra select committee and will make a formal response in due course. 

“We are continuing to investigate the allegations made by ITV and the Guardian concerning the 2 Sisters poultry plant in West Bromwich and will publish our findings when the work is completed,” a spokesperson said. 

By Gaynor Selby

Related Articles

Food Ingredients News

Sustainable packaging: 100 tons of ocean plastic to be collected by new partnership

23 Mar 2018 --- Waste Free Oceans (WFO) has announced a partnership with Henkel to remove plastic waste from oceans and rivers – and transform it into over a million bottles used for the Lovables laundry brand. The collaboration is, so far, the largest for WFO, with the agreement that it will run for at least three years. Together, the partners aim to remove enough plastic from rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans to produce 100 tons of usable recycled material each year.

Packaging & Technology News

EU Plastics Strategy: Multivac chief calls for responsibility amid digitalization revolution

23 Mar 2018 --- Hans-Joachim Boekstegers, Director and CEO of Multivac has adopted a clear position on the EU's Plastics Strategy, which he has outlined at Anuga FoodTec in Cologne earlier this week. One-third of the plastics-based packaging waste ends up in the environment, largely in the oceans, without any regulation, and in future, there is likely to be a rise in packaging production. “We are therefore convinced, that a high degree of commitment and awareness of responsibility is required, not only by the plastics industry but also by all players in the process chain – this means product manufacturers, producers and packers as well as machine and film manufacturers, retailers and of course consumers,” he said.

Business News

Ornua reports “record” €2.1bn revenues, boosted by Kerrygold

23 Mar 2018 --- Irish dairy exporter Ornua has published record revenues of €2.1 billion for 2017, reporting a bumper year of double-digit growth for Kerrygold in Germany and US. This marks the first year of Ornua’s new five-year growth plan, Ornua 2021, which positions the business as a leading global dairy organization, funded by 33 dairy co-ops, which delivers results for its customers, consumers and stakeholders.

Business News

Bayer-Monsanto: US$62.5bn mega-merger another step closer as EU conditionally approves tie-up

22 Mar 2018 --- The Bayer-Monsanto tie-up has cleared another big hurdle as the European Commission (EC) conditionally approved the acquisition – the latest green light from antitrust regulators which brings the creation of a company with control of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market closer to reality. Despite a wave of opposition from farming groups and environmentalists, German conglomerate Bayer has won EU antitrust approval to acquire the US seed giant – but it comes with conditions.

Business News

Sustainability goals 2025: AB InBev commits to smart agriculture and circular packaging

22 Mar 2018 --- Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) is committing to 2025 Sustainability Goals in smart agriculture, water stewardship, circular packaging, and climate action. The delivery of the goals will have the wide-reaching impact that includes connecting thousands of farmers to technologies and skills, ensuring water access and quality in high-stress communities, partnering with suppliers to increase recycling content, and adding renewable electricity capacity to regional grids.

More Articles